64,000 drug-bust samples in Mass. were processed by a dirty lab tech who tampered with them, altered weight, faked positive tests for illegal substances

Michael F sez, "There's a Massachusetts state crime lab scandal that hasn't yet received too much national attention (outside of the state)--and I thought it was worth sharing. It's been alleged that a single chemist (with forged education credentials) may be responsible for tampering with drug evidence that could have affected the outcome of up to 40,000 cases over the past 10 years. Based on the local coverage and on conversations with friends who are affiliated with the state lab (in an unrelated department), there's a good chance that an unprecedented number of drug convictions will be contested and overturned in the near future. "

From a Phillip Smith story on StoptheDrugWar.org:

State Police have notified prosecutors that some 64,000 drug samples involving the cases may be tainted because of alleged misconduct by former analyst Annie Dookhan in conducting tests on substances submitted to her by them.

Dookhan worked at the Hinton crime lab in Jamaica Plain from 2003 until she resigned in June. According to the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which was briefed on the scandal by the Deval Patrick administration last week, the meeting revealed why State Police are now questioning the reliability of the drug evidence Dookhan worked on.

"The lab analyst in question had unsupervised access to the drug safe and evidence room, and tampered with evidence bags, altered the actual weight of the drugs, did not calibrate machines correctly, and altered samples so that they would test as drugs when they were not," the association wrote in a letter to its members.

And of course, everyone knew about this long before the scandal broke. The dirty tech could process three times as many samples as her colleagues, so it was obvious something was going on. And of course, the Department of Public Health downplayed it, saying that the bad stuff was confined to 90 samples processed on one day. And of course, thousands of people went to jail because no one wanted to own up to this.

Mass. Crime Lab Scandal Threatens 34,000 Drug Cases [StoptheDrugWar.org]

Crime Lab Scandal Rocks Massachusetts [NPR]

(Thanks, Michael!)