Special court sessions set up around the state to handle drug lab scandal cases

The state court system announced today that it has assigned judges to sit in special sessions around the state that will handle cases that were potentially compromised by the state drug lab scandal.

The sessions will be held for the purpose of assigning lawyers and “addressing the immediate liberty interests” of people serving time “in connection with a drug conviction stemming from a questionable drug analysis,” said a statement from the public information office of the Supreme Judicial Court, which oversees the state court system.

“The trial court underscores its commitment to cooperating with prosecutors and defense counsel to ensure timely processing of cases involving the breach at the Hinton State Lab,” the statement said.

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The statement named judges in Superior Court, District Court, and Boston Municipal Court in 12 of the state’s 14 counties.

It was not immediately clear why Western Massachusetts counties were included. Previously, officials have said the lab scandal generally only affected Eastern Massachusetts prosecutions.

Former state chemist Annie Dookhan is at the center of the state lab scandal. She pleaded not guilty Friday in Boston Municipal Court to charges of obstruction of justice and falsifying her academic record. She was released on $10,000 cash bail.

She allegedly admitted to State Police investigators that she mishandled drug evidence at the state lab in Jamaica Plain, removing evidence from the evidence room without signing it out, forging coworkers’ signatures on reports, and not properly testing drug samples for about two or three years

State officials estimate that 1,141 people may now be in state prison or county jail based on evidence tested by Dookhan. She was involved in testing drugs in a total of 34,000 cases over her career.