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Continuing Consequences of Drug Lab Scandal

Cops in Massachusetts have a problem – too many drugs. Because of a scandal at the state drug lab, evidence that would normally be incinerated is piling up. Prosecutors are leery of approving destruction without knowing whether the original tests on the evidence will stand up in court. And even for cases that have already been to trial, there is a possibility that a conviction will be challenged because of disgraced former state chemist Annie Dookhan.

Ms. Dookhan’s activities came to light in January of this year, when Dookhan was arraigned on 27 charges related to faking test results or tampering with evidence. Her work was a key element in many drug convictions in the state. With the presumption of innocence, trials for a drug offenses require prosecutors to prove the “white powdery substance” actually is a substance which is illegal. This is accomplished by sending a sample to the state drug lab, where standard chemical identification tests are run.

Last July, when the matter first came to the attention of authorities, a shutdown of drug destruction was ordered. And this is where it still stands. In order to clear the backlog and get all the contraband out of evidence lockers, it will be necessary to re-test or, at a minimum, document that Ms. Dookhan was not involved in the original testing.

According to the Telegram, police agencies are waiting for the completion of a state Inspector General’s report. The investigation should outline the true extent of the problem. Those who were convicted based on possibly tainted tests are also waiting to see what the report shows. In some cases, a new trial may be granted.

Perhaps the worst case scenario is if someone has been wrongly convicted based on a fabricated test. It is quite possible that what was thought to be cocaine, or heroin was not.

The IG report is due out by the end of the year, but state police storage may not be up to the task.


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