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The moment Boston state chemist is arrested for faking criminal drug test results casting doubt on 34,000 convictions

  • Annie Dookhan tested more than 60,000 drug  samples involving 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the lab
  • Admitted identifying narcotics simply ‘by  looking at them’
  • Dozens of drug defendants already back on  the street because of her misconduct
  • Dookhan lied about having a master’s degree  in chemistry
  • One colleague said he never saw Dookhan in  front of a microscope

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED:16:21 EST, 28  September 2012| UPDATED:17:03 EST, 28 September 2012

A chemist accused of faking drug test  results, forging paperwork and mixing samples at a state police lab was arrested  today in a scandal that has thrown thousands of criminal cases into  doubt.

Annie Dookhan, 34, was led by police from her  home in Franklin, Massachusetts about 40 miles southwest of Boston.

Dookhan’s alleged mishandling of drug samples  prompted the shutdown of the Hinton State Laboratory Institute in the city last  month and resulted in the resignation of three officials, including the state’s  public health commissioner.

Failures: Disgraced chemist Annie Dookhan has thrown the verdicts of thousands of criminal trials in Massachusetts into doubt after she was accused of faking drug resultsFailures: Disgraced chemist Annie Dookhan has thrown the  verdicts of thousands of criminal trials in Massachusetts into doubt after she  was accused of faking drug results

Flawed: Dookhan, 34, lied about having a master's degree in chemistry from the University of MassachusettsFlawed: Dookhan, 34, lied about having a master’s degree  in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts

State police said Dookhan tested more than  60,000 drug samples involving 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the  lab. Defense lawyers and prosecutors are scrambling to figure out how to deal  with the fall-out.

Since the lab closed, more than a dozen drug  defendants are back on the street while their attorneys challenge the charges  based on Dookhan’s misconduct.

Many more defendants are expected to be  released. Authorities say more than 1,100 inmates are currently serving time in  cases in which Dookhan was the primary or secondary chemist.

Dookhan is charged with two counts of  obstruction of justice, a charge that is formally called witness intimidation.  That charge is punishable by a maximum of ten years in prison.

She is also charged with pretending to hold a  degree for a college or university, punishable by as much as a year in  jail.

Attorney General Martha Coakley said  the  obstruction charge accuses Dookhan of lying about the integrity of  drug  evidence that she analyzed at the lab in two instances.

The other charge accuses her of lying under  oath about having a  master’s degree in chemistry from the University of  Massachusetts.

Shoddy work: More than a dozen defendants facing drug charges were back on the street after lawyers challenged Dookhan's workShoddy work: More than a dozen defendants facing drug  charges were back on the street after lawyers challenged Dookhan’s work

Dressed in a grey hoodie and jeans, Dookhan  was taken to state police barracks in Foxborough to be booked before her  scheduled arraignment in Boston Municipal Court on this afternoon.

It is unclear whether anyone else will face  charges, but Dookhan’s supervisors have faced harsh criticism for not removing  her from lab duties after suspicions about her were first raised by her  co-workers and for not alerting prosecutors and police.

‘I think that all of those who are  accountable for the impact on individual cases need to be held accountable,’  Governor Deval Patrick said on Thursday.

Co-workers began expressing concern  about  Dookhan’s work habits several years ago, but her supervisors  allowed her to  continue working.

She was the most productive chemist in the  lab, routinely testing more than 500 samples a month, while others tested  between 50 and 150.

Shut down: Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Boston was closed over the mishandling of drug samples by a state chemist Shut down: Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Boston  was closed over the mishandling of drug samples by a state chemist

One co-worker told state police he never saw  Dookhan in front of a  microscope. A lab employee saw Dookhan weighing drug  samples without  doing a balance check on her scale.

In 2010, a supervisor did an audit of  Dookhan’s paperwork, but didn’t retest any of her samples. The audit found  nothing wrong.

The same year, a chemist found seven  instances where Dookhan incorrectly  identified a drug sample as a certain  narcotic when it was something  else. According to state police he told himself  it was an honest mistake.

In an interview with police late last month,  Dookhan allegedly admitted faking test results for two to three years.

She told police she identified some  drug  samples as narcotics simply by looking at them instead of testing  them, a  process known as ‘’dry labbing’.

She also said she forged the  initials of  colleagues and deliberately turned a negative sample into a  positive for  narcotics a few times.

Defense attorneys for drug suspects were not  surprised by Dookhan’s arrest.

‘I hate to say it – it’s more than  appropriate,’ said attorney Bernie Grossberg, who has already had one  client  released from prison and has been deluged by calls from other  clients since  news of the scandal broke.

Fall-out: Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said he expects criminal charges will be brought against Dookhan for her work that has jeopardized thousands of criminal trials Fall-out: Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said he expects criminal charges will be brought against Dookhan for her work that has jeopardized thousands of criminal trials

Fall-out: Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said he  expects criminal charges will be brought against Dookhan for her work that has  jeopardized thousands of criminal trials

Attorney John T. Martin, who has a client who  was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea based on concerns over Dookhan’s work,  said: ‘I think it’s rather tragic … that she finds herself in the same  position as the people she was testifying against.

‘I hope the system isn’t treating the  evidence against her the way she treated the evidence against several thousand  defendants.’

Dookhan was suspended from lab duties after  getting caught forging a colleague’s initials on paperwork in June 2011.

She resigned in March as the Department of  Public Health investigated. The lab was run by the department until July 1, when  state police took over as part of a state budget directive.

After the lab’s shutdown, police asked a lab  supervisor why Dookhan would take samples from an evidence room without logging  them out. Elizabeth O’Brien told investigators that Dookhan was going through  personal problems that included a miscarriage in 2009.

The lab supervisor also alluded to a 2009  Supreme Court decision known as Melendez-Diaz that said it was a violation of a  defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights if the accused didn’t have a chance to  cross-examine the chemists who prepared reports against them.

The high court’s review of what started as a  Boston drug case put prosecutors in a bind across the state, resulting in an  order that chemists had to be present for cross-examinations at every drug  trial.

O’Brien told police: ‘Annie was going through  personal problems, then court, and Melendez-Diaz was tough at first on her. In  2009 she had a miscarriage and other personal problems. Perhaps she was trying  to be important, by being the ”go-to person.”’

Dookhan said she just wanted to get the work  done and never meant to hurt anyone.

‘I screwed up big-time,’ she is quoted as  saying in a state police report. ‘I messed up bad; it’s my fault. I don’t want  the lab to get in trouble.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2210168/Boston-state-chemist-Annie-Dookhan-arrested-fake-drug-tests-Massachusetts.html#ixzz27oNHBZpt Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

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