Chemist Costs State Millions

Annie Dookhan, 35, is a former Massachusetts chemist who worked at the state drug lab for nine years.  She is currently facing charges related to the tainting of evidence, faking test results, and consistently ignoring testing protocols.

Approximately two months ago, Governor Deval Patrick, hired a lawyer to compile a list of defendants affected by Dookhan.  At this point, the list has reached over 40,000 defendants and continues to grow.

Dookhan’s motive is not yet conclusive, but many believe creating and then maintaining her outstanding reputation drove her.  Dookhan was known as the most productive chemist in the lab and the go-to examiner for prosecutors.  Officials now believe her reputation was a hoax.

“She told state police that instead of testing all the substances turned over to the Department of Public Health lab, she sometimes would test only a fraction of them, but certify them all as drugs, authorities said.”

“It’s been very damaging to the integrity of the justice system,” said Matthew Segal, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

The scandal has led to multiple resignations by state lab workers, including the firing of one of the lab’s managers.

Mary Ham, a chemistry teacher here at Ipswich High, puts a lot of the blame on Annie Dookhan’s employers and supervisors.

“A big part of the problem was that she was hired with a falsified resume and transcripts.  She really wasn’t qualified to do the job that they hired her to do.  Obviously, the responsibility there lies with her supervisors and the people that didn’t check to make sure that her background was in fact an honest one,” said Ham.

Much more devastating than the losses of a few managerial jobs at the state lab were the incarcerations of innocent people, the lawsuits the state has to now pay for (via taxes), and the guilty criminals released to further endanger the public.

It is estimated that more than 330 prison inmates have been released; 65 of which have already been arrested on new charges.  As for money, this has already cost the state millions of dollars and countless hours of work.

If Dookhan pleads guilty to more than 24 criminal counts, she could be sentenced to just five to seven years behind bars, according to the judge.

This has prosecutors and lawmakers in an uproar seeing as each count of tampering with evidence and obstruction carries a sentence of up to 10 years in state prison.  A single perjury count, which Dookhan also faces, carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.  She is also charged with lying about her educational credentials, which is a misdemeanor and can result in up to 2½ years in county jail.

Another repercussion of Dookhan’s actions was additional money payed to the unemployed chemists of the lab.  According to the Boston Herald, “The state doled out more than $800,000 to pay chemists to stay home and do nothing over the past year while scrambling to find them new jobs after the Jamaica Plain crime lab was shut down in the wake of the Annie Dookhan scandal.  The last of the 14 chemists left in paid limbo is now finally being given a new job after the state crime lab in the Hinton building was shuttered in August 2012.”

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