A report by the Massachusetts Inspector General released this week says that an investigation has shown that Annie Dookhan, a former drug lab technician, was the “sole bad actor” at a Boston drug lab where she falsified tests. The report also said that the facility’s directors were “ill-suited” to oversee the lab. Dookhan doctored evidence to change test results at the Hinton State Drug Laboratory. After her co-workers told state police her work was unreliable, the state Attorney General’s office began an investigation in mid-2012.
The tampering has called into question 40,000 cases going back to 2003, and in some cases, may have contributed to the wrongful conviction of the innocent.
Dookhan pled guilty to multiple charges, including obstruction of justice, mishandling evidence, and lying about holding a master’s degree. She was sentenced to 3 to 5 years.
“Dookhan was the sole bad actor at the Drug Lab. Though many of the chemists worked alongside Dookhan for years, the OIG (Office of the Inspector General) found no evidence that any other chemist at the Drug Lab committed any malfeasance with respect to testing evidence or knowingly aided Dookhan in committing her malfeasance,” the report said.
“The directors were ill-suited to oversee a forensic drug lab, provided almost no supervision, were habitually unresponsive to chemists’ complaints and suspicions, and severely downplayed Dookhan’s major breach in chain-of-custody protocol upon discovering it,” according to the inspector general’s report.
The Inspector General’s Office reviewed 200,000 documents and interviewed 40 employees of the drug lab.
An investigation by Inspector General Glenn Cunha and his office showed that former Department of Public Health Commissioner “John Auerbach and his staff failed to respond appropriately to the report of Dookhan’s breach of protocol” and “the investigation DPH conducted was far too narrow,” the report said. The lab was closed by Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick after the scandal was uncovered. Auerback resigned from the Public Health Department amid the investigation and the Mass. State Police will now oversee all testing of drug cases.
The Inspector General’s Office concluded that “all samples in which Dookhan was the primary chemist should be treated as suspect and be subject to careful review.”
In addition to the drug samples Dookhan handled, 2,000 samples not handled by Dookhan were also found to contain potential “exculpatory evidence” of defendants in criminal cases where the drug lab failed to disclose results. The Inspector General’s Office says it is retesting these samples and will give prosecutors and defendants accurate information.