Over 40,000 Cases Tainted By “Rogue Chemist”

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guset Blogger

dookhanAnnie Dookhan was a chemist in a Massachusetts Department of Public Health drug-testing lab located in the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Jamaica Plain. Dookhan has been indicted on 27 charges including fabricating test results and tampering with drug evidence. Dookhan allegedly told state police that she’d test a few samples but then list them all as positive, and sometimes would take cocaine from another sample and add to a sample that tested negative so it would test positive. Authorities have since shut down the lab. Dookhan has pleaded not guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice and is free on $10,000 cash bail.

The administration of Governor Deval Patrick has hired Boston defense attorney David Meier to determine the scope of the scandal. The state has agreed to pay Meier’s law firm, Todd & Weld, $12,500 a month. The state has also set aside $30 million for Dookhan-related costs. The costs of the scandal may reach $100 million.

Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel for the Massachusetts Bar Association referred to the “unconscionable level of gross negligence at the state drug lab.” Everybody’s outraged, now. But back then, the police were happy, the prosecutors were happy, and the drug lab bosses were happy.

The drive to convict those who have been arrested pressures the lab technicians to produce the desired results. Prosecutors are corrupted by their ambition and passion for convictions. Woe to those who stand in their way. Dookhan “was the most productive chemist” at the lab testing up to 500 samples per month while others tested 50 to 150 samples.

E-mails between Dookhan and Norfolk Assistant ­District Attorney George ­Papachristos, showing a flirtatious relationship, have led to Papachristos’ resignation. Other e-mails show Debra Payton, a Norfolk County assistant district attorney called herself a Dookhan “hog” because she was eager to get Dookhan’s help analyzing drug samples. Allison Callahan, a Suffolk assistant district attorney, praised Dookhan’s help on a big marijuana case and suggested a celebratory meeting at an upscale bar. The chemists testing the drug samples should be assigned cases randomly.

Drug lab technicians should be frequently subjected to independent, undercover, double blind testing. There should be double blind testing of chemists in every drug lab in the United States. Where are the calls for double blind testing of chemists in all the labs in Massachusetts? Crickets.

H/T: Charles P. Pierce, David Abel, John R. Ellement and Martin Finucane, Denise Lavoie, David Abel and John R. Ellement.

54 thoughts on “Over 40,000 Cases Tainted By “Rogue Chemist”

  1. I wanna believe in karma for this little Madame Curie wannabe. Maybe a successor life as an inmate in a Turkish prison.

  2. Note chief legal counsel for the MBA referred to the “unconscionable level of gross negligence at the state drug lab.” The drive to convict those who have been arrested pressured the lab technicians to produce the desired results. Prosecutors were corrupted by their ambition and passion for convictions. Woe to those who stand in their way.

    How many other Court Systems across the country operate in the same way?

  3. In all fairness, part of the problem is the management culture at that particular lab. I know several people who work in labs that do that kind of testing, both on the floor and in management although I’ll stipulate that the ones in management I know came from the floor and aren’t just an MBA but actual chemists themselves. Most of them take the science very seriously. They wouldn’t respond to pressure from prosecutors very well if at all if it meant compromising the science. While I agree that pressure from ambitious prosecutors could indeed be the problem, how this lab is managed needs a thorough review as well. It could truly be the result of a lone bad employee or it could be a systemic problem from the lab’s end.

  4. Considering the stakes, and the now negligible cost of technology, I think every drug test should be videotaped and the entire lab videotaped constantly. There is no reason we should just trust the lab hasn’t made a mistake or been negligent in its handling of tests. There should be a much greater standard of proof, somehow, to show that no such substitutions have been made, or tampering has been done, between the time of a sample being taken and the result being shown.

    Some sociopathic lab technician should not be able to, by their sole power, condemn a person to years of prison and ruin their life out of sheer laziness.

  5. I would suggest that this lab technician and hercomplicit prosecutor be sentanced to the combined number of years they sought to sentence each of the defendants to by their willful creation of false evidence. That would change the “convict at any cost” culture.

  6. The drive to convict those who have been arrested pressures the lab technicians to produce the desired results.
    This is pathetic. Especially since it is most likely a product of the current gross economic imbalance. A law firm will be paid 12, 500.00 a MONTH. The mean annual wage of a chemist in a drug testing lab is $45,730. DUH.

  7. How about we legalize drug usage and stop this charade of putting people in prison?

    Disgusting, I hope MA goes bankrupt paying off everyone that was convicted of any crime where this crime lab was involved.

  8. In cases like this a Federal judge should step in and order the state pay for an independent lab analysis by the defense in every drug prosecution for an extended period until this problem is resolved. Of course, the taxpayers get the short end on this. But, this criminality is unacceptable.

  9. This is not something new. It has been going on forever. I know more than I want to know about the case of Fred Zain. He was the police serologist in West Virgina, and actually threw out lab samples, just making up test results. He also lied about his credentials, but nobody ever checked on his educational claims. He was finally fired for the fraud in 1989, but guess what? He got another similar job in Texas. He did the same thing there. He got caught again, eventually, and was on trial for fraud when he died in 2002. Fred Zain’s testimony sent many defendants to prison on fabricated lab results, but he never did a day of time. I could write a lot more, but this is just a comment and not a blog story.

    You can learn more by clicking the links, or Google his name.



  10. Although all the suggestions are good ones, I particularly like Tony’s as a means to guard against future abuses.

  11. A very important piece David considering the nature of Jonathan Turley’s blog and the arc of his distinguished career. Situations like this taint our entire criminal justice system and belie the notion that justice is blind. The country should have been aware of this in 1998 when word of the FBI Crime Lab scandal reached the news:

    “Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, who joined the FBI in 1982 and served as a Supervisory Special Agent at the Lab from 1986 to 1998, blew the whistle on scientific misconduct at the Lab. In a subsequent investigation, it was found that evidence had been falsified, altered, or suppressed evidence, or that FBI agents had testified falsely, in as many as 10,000 cases, resulting in many false convictions. More than a decade later, cases were still being overturned because of this massive fraud.[3] As a result of Whitehurst’s whistleblowing, the FBI Lab implemented forty major reforms, including undergoing an accreditation process.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FBI_Laboratory

    As to the “major reforms implemented this problem continues as noted in this Washington Post editorial from August 2012:

    “KIRK L. ODOM was incarcerated for 20 years and Donald E. Gates for nearly 30 for crimes they did not commit. Santae A. Tribble spent 28 years behind bars, even though DNA evidence now shows he almost undoubtedly was not the culprit.

    All of the men were erroneously convicted in the District, in part, on the basis of forensic evidence analyzed by the FBI. Problems within the FBI lab, particularly with hair-sample analysis, were well known to the agency and the Justice Department; a task force spent some nine years reviewing cases after a whistle-blower revealed possible shortcomings. In a series of articles, The Post’s Spencer S. Hsu and a team of reporters documented how the Justice Department failed to notify lawyers representing prisoners whose fate hinged on the FBI analysis. Some prisoners spent years behind bars before becoming aware of the lab issues.

    The problem continues to this day. The full results of the Justice Department task force’s investigation have not been made public. Even when the task force discovered flaws in a case, the information was turned over only to prosecutors, who were then left to decide whether the results needed to be brought to the attention of defense lawyers. In addition, the task force reviewed only cases involving one FBI analyst whose work was called into question; The Post identified cases where other analysts’ work resulted in convictions of innocent defendants.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fbi-lab-failures-should-lead-to-reform/2012/04/20/gIQAe6lYWT_story.html

    I think it is reasonable to assume, given that the country’s most prestigious crime lab has problems, that Ms. Dookham’s malfeasance is not uncommon across the country. It is but one reason that the criminal justice system in this country is broken. Those who are “hardliners” on crime and campaign for office based on their “toughness” rarely support the substantial increase in funds necessary to make our criminal justice system just. There is a reason that our country has the highest rate of incarceration in the world and it isn’t because this is a lawless society. As a society we have come to venerate the “enforcers of the law”, who are battling against a “criminal element” held up as bogeymen” by vote hungry politicians. The top rated “dramas” on Network TV are crime dramas that celebrate the “science” of forensics. The actors heroically portray people dedicated to punish “evil doers”. The public is led to believe that every criminal case is investigated and prosecuted to ensure justice is done. This is not, nor has it ever been the case and for most people justice in this country is just the “luck of the draw”.

  12. The desire for convictions over shadows the entire so called war on drug…. Mespo…. Would being sentenced to a Turkish prison be enough….

  13. Why only 2 counts against her and does sound like others are culpable, but maybe those only civillay since it was she who did the tainting, lying etc.
    (And she may have been pressured but that that Is no excuse. she had options; refuse, resign, go to media. )

  14. We had a somewhat similar scandal here involving someone at the state tox lab who falsely sworn to the accuracy of external standards of breathalyzers. An external standard is a jar containing an alcohol & water mixture that the breathalizer uses to check that it is properly calibrated during a breath test sampling. Prior to being released to the State Patrol for installation into the breathalyzers They are certified by a series of technicians who sign under penalty of perjury the standard is a certain alcohol content.

    An anonymous tip at the law led to a WSP investigation and a manager of the lab resigned after she was implicated in signing off on the results when she did not actually test the solutions.

    Practically speaking, since the external standards were tested by numerous others in the lab so it was unlikely that they were improper, and that the breathalyzers are configured to trigger a warning and stop testing if the external standard is out of range, it really became a issue as to integrity of the system and admissibility of the BAC results.

    Defense attorneys brought up valid arguments that if the head of this lab committed false swearing / perjury in the course of certification of these standards what is to say that others did not engage in the same behavior. Plus it would be in the spirit of what the exclusionary rule is in many ways works to keep those more honest in that the state would not want to lose a case due to improper evidence rules causing a suppression of the evidence.

    Here is a link to the story


  15. What does this tell us about the mentality of government agencies in relation to the public they are paid and entrusted to
    SERVE, not to serve up on a plate for the industrial meat grinder known as the justice system?

    Another black eye in the war against the people otherwise known as the war on drugs. Ahhh, the war mentality, forever prosecuted.

  16. Part of the problem is the “ends” justify the “means” mentality which is the polar opposite of constitutional due process and their oath of office.

    Even otherwise good FBI agents, police, prosecutors, lab technicians, etc. can produce genuine corruption with this mentality. On a side note, the Frank Church Committee of Congress exposed this mentality in FBI agents as a problem in the 1970’s. Director Mueller continues to allow this mentality to exist at the FBI and it continues to create corrupt outcomes.

  17. How many more of our public institutions must not only fail, but do so spectacularly, before none of it works any longer?

  18. “How about we legalize drug usage and stop this charade of putting people in prison?”

    The problem is that it is not just about drugs and it is not just about this lab.

    Of course, I am sure that most lab technicians are professionals who what to do a good job.

    But Even the FBI lab has had problems with basic science and pressure to tell prosecutors what they want to hear.

    We ought to assume no lab is immune from the corrosive effects of pressure.

    Double blind experiments and random selection of lab techs make a lot of sense.

  19. ” “hardliners” on crime and campaign for office based on their “toughness” rarely support the substantial increase in funds necessary to make our criminal justice system just. ”

    And some of these hardliners seem to have the attitude that ‘we may cut a few corners but at least we are getting the bad guys off the street.’

    Inadequate lab work means that there will be false convictions. The opposite side of the coin of a false conviction is that the real perpetrator is still on the street and likely still committing crimes.

    It would seem that as a point of law that DOJ would have to notify the convicted and defense attorneys when bad lab work calls into question their conviction – not just a sample of the most egregious examples.

    It is not just that fundamental fairness and justice require that the convicted have a chance to review bad lab work. The protection of society from perpetrators still on the street demands it.

  20. If Congress would demand an end to false flag operations such as 9/11 and inside jobs/hoaxes such as “killing” the long-dead-at-the-time” Osama, supporting Al Qaeda terrorists in Syria etc., then the CIA’s need to be the world’s biggest drug cartel would end.

    Crimes such as the one in this article wouldn’t exist if ALL drugs were legal.

  21. She should do time for each time she fabricated evidence and someone went to jail. One to ten ratio would be correct. So if ten guys got ten years each then she gets one for each or ten years. The prosecutor in that town needs to be drug tested.

  22. In cases like these the state should have a positive duty to notify every defendant/lawyer in every case handled by this particular technician and do so in a timely manner. The possibility of a valid appeal freeing someone convicted on bad evidence shouldn’t rest on some lawyer seeing a newspaper account. Yes, she should do time and the Prosecutor should be investigated for his role, if any, in the matter.

  23. more collateral damage in the “war on drugs”.

    just think how many more lives can be screwed up by drug testing for food stamps or tanf.

  24. I am up to my ears with people employing the word “data”. It is data this and data that. But, here, the data suggests that she do one day in jail for each false piece of data in all reports. If the data suggests forty thousand days and nights then so be the suggestion. Dog anmnDay itchBay.

  25. Great story David. It amazes me that these testing labs were not routinely examined and re-accredited. I agree with an earlier comment that the state should have a duty to contact all former defendants about this testing lab’s crimes.

  26. So tens of thousands of convictions were obtained with these forensics, and not once during this period was a defendant able to independently test the evidence against him and call into question the State Lab results?

  27. She was doing 500 tests while others were doing 50-150 says that supervisor/s should also be shown be prosecuted. That kind of difference in “productivity” should have been noticed and questioned. At a rate of 500 per month for a total of 40,000, she was at it for years. She should have been under investigation years ago. Other heads should roll and even join her in jail. Surely it is criminal negligence to allow someone under your supervision to put innocent people in jail with falsified evidence.

  28. puzzling/Bron,

    I think you’re both underestimating how much lab work can cost. Given that most of these were probably drug cases, I’m thinking the bulk of the defendants couldn’t afford outside testing.

  29. For centuries the voluntaryists/anarchists have put forth evidence that the pathological among you are most drawn to the “state/government”. It’s criminal that so many of you and your ancestors were too cowardly to face it.

  30. “Ends” that justify the “means” mentality is a BIG problem in Wayne County, Michigan, regardless it is the polar opposite of our constitutional due process.

    Unfortunately, good FBI agents, police chiefs, police, prosecutors, lab technicians, polygraph operators, etc., produce genuine corruption with this mentality, too often due to pressure from their bosses. Even though the Frank Church Committee of Congress exposed this mentality in FBI agents as a problem in the 1970′s, this mentality is allowed to exist beyond the FBI and it continues to create corrupt outcomes because it is covered up by cronyism.

    Corruption by judges and their favored attorneys in addition to a few FBI agents, police, prosecutors, lab technicians, polygraph operators, etc.
    is a systemic problem in Wayne County, Michigan.

    Rape Test Kits sat “untested” in the Wayne County Lab, and one mayor in Wayne County used fake rape allegations to remove his honest Police Chief because the mayor was on the take from drug dealers and untaxed cigarettes pushers that ultimately covered up terrorists activities that killed over 3,000 innocent people. But no one cares.

  31. “Ends justifying the means” is the system of “governments” “Governments” are the initiators of violent threats and violence. The means of initiating violence or threats of violence is thought by decent people to be universally unacceptable.

  32. One mayor in Wayne County used fake rape allegations to remove his honest Police Chief because the mayor was on the take from drug dealers and untaxed cigarette pushers that ultimately covered up terrorists activities that killed over 3,000 innocent people on 9-11-01. But no one cares.

  33. CAY,

    Please tell me more about how one mayor covered up something that lead to 3,000 folks being killed on 9-11-01? I’m interested I want to know….

  34. Anonymously Yours,

    Many drug dealers were major campaign contributors to one Wayne County mayor. This mayor stopped his honest Police Chief from raiding several well known drug houses, one of which that periodically housed half of the 17 “9-11” terrorists (including Mohamed Atta). But no police agency would take on this mayor because he was the head of the US Conference of Mayors, and he regularly dined with Detroit’s organized crime top boss. Remember what happened to the Kennedy boys when they tried to take on organized crime.

  35. If I recall he was not mayor in 2001 it was Dennis Archer….Young was no one to mess with that’s for sure…. I disagree …Saul Green took on the mayor quite often…. You make blanket ascertations with no proof…..

  36. Anonymously Yours,

    This was another Wayne County mayor, not any of Detroit’s mayors.

    BTW, Dennis Archer was a good mayor, but sadly he did not run for a second term due to threats.

  37. Anonymously Yours,

    Wayne County is made up of several cities that have mayors, one of which is Detroit. Detroit is not the only city in Wayne County that has had corrupt mayors.

    This other mayor was like Young, “no one to mess with that’s for sure” parroting your words above, because no one cared.

  38. CY,

    Yes indeed Wayne county has many different cities….are you speaking of Westland? Royal Oak?

    They both have strong union ties…. Some might even say that they bring in the enforcers from macomb county….. You know like the likes of Hoffa…. Tell me which city…. I’m interested….

  39. Anonymously Yours,

    Dearborn, since you wanted to know “which city.”

    What are the FACTs about cities with “strong union ties” …. “enforcers from macomb county” ….. “likes of Hoffa”…. ? …. I’m interested ….

  40. You talking about Hubbard….if you are from there…. Then you know what I’m saying…. You don’t want to drop a plate in Greek town…. It might be your last one…

  41. Anonymously Yours,

    Mayor Hubbard left office in 1977. 2 other mayors were running Dearborn and responsible in 2001. One of these 2 mayors is still in charge today.

    What do you mean by “You don’t want to drop a plate in Greek town…. It might be your last one.”

    What are the FACTs about cities with “strong union ties” …. “enforcers from macomb county” ….. “likes of Hoffa”…. ? …. I’m interested ….

  42. Anonymously Yours,

    I apologize for not knowing, but please explain what do you mean by “You don’t want to drop a plate in Greek town…. It might be your last one.”

    What are the FACTs about cities with “strong union ties” …. “enforcers from macomb county” ….. “likes of Hoffa”…. ? …. I’m interested ….

  43. Coleman,

    Like I said… If you’re really from that area… There’s no reason for any explanation from me….

  44. Dookhan Pleads Guilty, Gets 3-5 Years In Prison:

    Disgraced former state chemist Annie Dookhan is now behind bars, after she pleaded guilty Friday to all 27 counts against her related to the drug lab crisis.

    Dookhan showed little emotion and spoke softly as she pleaded guilty.

    After accepting Dookhan’s plea, Judge Carol Ball sentenced her to three to five years in state prison in Framingham.

    Prosecutors had sought a five- to seven-year sentence. Dookhan had sought a one-year sentence.

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