Review finds hundreds more cases are affected by state drug lab scandal
A review of the cases handled by Annie Dookhan, the woman at the center of the state drug testing lab scandal, has found hundreds more cases that may be affected because of questions about her handling of drug evidence, the lawyer leading the review said today.
Officials had previously announced that 1,141 people were serving sentences in state prison or county jail in cases where Dookhan had potentially mishandled the evidence. Attorney David Meier said today that perhaps another 335 people were being held on bail awaiting trial and another 144 were presently on parole, in cases where Dookhan may have been involved.
In addition, Meier said, 319 juveniles were potentially committed to Department of Youth Services custody based on evidence handled by Dookhan. They have all completed their commitments; no juvenile is currently being detained based on a Dookhan case.
“These are sort of the priorities that we’ve been focusing on at the governor’s direction. We’re working to identify every individual who may be serving a sentence, who may be in custody awaiting trial, who may have been committed to the Department of Youth Services, or whose liberty might be restricted in some way because they’re on parole, they’re on probation, as a result of a drug case that this chemist may have worked on,” said Meier, a former prosecutor who was picked by Governor Deval Patrick to sift through the cases Dookhan handled.
A special court session designed to address the aftermath of the scandal will begin Monday morning in Suffolk Superior Court, which has the largest number of cases that may be affected in the state. The session is slated for 9 a.m. before Judge Christine McEvoy.
Dookhan allegedly mishandled evidence when she worked as a chemist at the now-closed Jamaica Plain lab run by the Department of Public Health where police took drugs seized from defendants to be tested. She faces two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of falsifying her academic records.
Officials have said they believe she played a role in testing drugs in 34,000 cases. They have said they were moving quickly to identify which cases those were — and to make sure no one was incarcerated based on tainted evidence.
Worried about the potential release of hundreds of convicted criminals, Boston officials announced plans Thursday to put more specialized units on the streets, the Globe reported this morning.
In Norfolk Superior Court in Dedham, a number of lab scandal cases will be heard Monday, but not in a special session, said Norfolk district attorney’s spokesman David Traub.
A key element of any drug case is scientific testing that proves that the substance seized from a defendant is, in fact, drugs and not some other substance.