Annie Dookhan, former chemist at the Hinton State Laboratory Institute (also known as the Department of Public Health drug lab) in Jamaica Plain, admitted that she “messed up bad,” local media reported Wednesday. Dookhan was referring to her mishandling and contamination of drug evidence, fraudulent alteration of chain of custody documents and other misconduct, which has called into question evidence used in more than 30,000 drug cases.
Dookhan confessed that she has claimed that negative drug tests were positive and that she breached other lab protocol. She also confessed that for two or three years she had not even done the required tests on drug samples and that she forged the signature of a colleague certifying that equipment was functioning properly. As of Wednesday, at least 20 inmates had been freed, had bail reduced, or had their sentences suspended as a result of the drug lab scandal.
According to reports, some fellow chemists at the lab expressed concern over Dookhan months and years before the scandal broke. One chemist told police that he was “staggered” by Dookhan’s output of more than 500 analyses per month. An average chemist has an output of 50 to 150 analyses per month, according to that chemist. When that chemist brought his concerns to Dookhan’s supervisor in December of 2010, the supervisor’s explanation was that Dookhan skipped lunch breaks and brought work home.
Another fellow chemist noticed that Dookhan did not use a microscope, which is necessary to analyze suspected cocaine samples. He also said that she would do favors for police and prosecutors, mostly in Quincy drug cases. Dookhan reportedly told police that she did not understand the attention she has been receiving from the press. When police asked Dookhan if she ever considered the harm she was causing to others, she reportedly responded that “now and then” she would think about it. In addition to deliberately mishandling drug samples in tens of thousands of cases, Dookhan falsified her resume, claiming to have a master’s degree and to have graduated magna cum laude from Boston’s Latin Academy.
As a result of the drug lab scandal, Massachusetts criminal defense attorneys have been reviewing new and old cases to determine whether the Jamaica Plain laboratory and/or Annie Dookhan were involved in their clients’ analyses. Many have filed new trial motions, motions to vacate guilty pleas, motions for stay of sentence after trial or plea, and motions for post-conviction discovery. Those representing clients with open cases are carefully exploring whether drug analyses have been rendered suspect. The drug lab controversy has affected countless individuals accused and/or convicted of drug trafficking, distribution, possession with intent, and more.