Annie Dookhan was supposed to be an independent witness, a state chemist coolly analyzing drug evidence for the court. But her e-mails over the last nine years, obtained by the Globe, vividly detail her close relationship with prosecutors, including a man to whom she poured her heart out, and her strong desire to put suspects behind bars.
Dookhan, arraigned Thursday on 27 counts of altering drug evidence and obstructing justice, viewed herself as part of the prosecution team, the e-mails show. She coached assistant district attorneys on trial strategy and told one that her goal was “getting [drug dealers] off the streets.” When Dookhan told a prosecutor that she could not testify in her case, the woman replied with an anguished: “No no no!!! I need you!!!”
The e-mails show that her close relationships extended beyond Norfolk Assistant District Attorney George Papachristos, who resigned in October after the Globe disclosed his flirtatious friendship with Dookhan. But Dookhan appeared to have a special fondness for Papachristos, even sending him copies of an e-mail in which she said she needed a man “to love me and make me laugh.”
The collection of more than 1,000 e-mails could raise new questions about the reliability of any of Dookhan’s work in the 34,000 drug cases she handled since 2003 at the state drug lab in Jamaica Plain. Dookhan’s admitted altering of test results and mishandling of evidence has already led to the release from jail of 159 drug case defendants, with many more expected to be freed.
The e-mails show Dookhan was prone to fabrications, repeatedly making up grandiose job titles for herself, such as “special agent of operations” for the FBI and other federal agencies.
She was also far from the impartial analyst her job description demanded, regularly doing favors for prosecutors while treating defense attorneys warily, asking prosecutors if she should even respond to their requests.
The correspondence also raises questions about what role prosecutors may have played in encouraging Dookhan’s alleged misconduct.
The married, 35-year-old chemist’s friendly relationship with Papachristos, 37, finally went over the line for Dookhan’s husband in 2009. Having apparently discovered the exchanges between his wife and the prosecutor, he contacted Papachristos using his wife’s phone.
“I got 8 text messages on my work cellphone from your cell, and they (sic) according to the messages, they were from your husband. He said a few things that didn’t make any sense to me,” wrote Papachristos to Dookhan on August 12, 2009. “I have to tell my bosses because it was on my work cell and he made several accusations that have no basis.”
Papachristos has denied that the two had an affair. The e-mails show they worked closely — “Glad we are on the same team,” he once wrote Dookhan — including one day in May 2010 when he told her he needed a marijuana sample to weigh at least 50 pounds so that he could charge the owners with drug trafficking.
“Any help would be greatly appreciated!” he wrote, punctuating each sentence with a long string of exclamation points. “Thank you!”
Two hours later, Dookhan responded: “OK . . . definitely Trafficking, over 80 lbs.” Papachristos thanked her profusely.
Papachristos may only have been asking for clarification and not asking Dookhan to offer an inflated weight, but investigators have charged that Dookhan was more than willing to alter drug test results to find a defendant guilty. In fact, Dookhan is facing charges that she fabricated test results for another case that Papachristos prosecuted.
Both Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey and Papachristos’s lawyer, Daniel W. O’Malley, said the prosecutor did nothing wrong and has already been cleared by the attorney general.
“George Papachristos was a dedicated and seasoned prosecutor who voluntarily met with two assistant attorneys general and two Massachusetts state troopers regarding Annie Dookhan, and he answered all of their questions,” O’Malley said. “He engaged in no wrongdoing, and he is not accused of engaging in any wrongdoing.”
Dookhan’s e-mails make it clear she was highly regarded, both by prosecutors and people inside the state drug lab in Jamaica Plain where she processed more than twice as many drug cases as anyone else.
“Some of the senior chemists are becoming full of themselves and using my name and reputation for their own advancement,” Dookhan complained in March 2011 to Debra Payton, a Norfolk County assistant district attorney. Continued...