GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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December 26, 2012

State weighing costs in drug lab debacle

BOSTON — As “rogue chemist” Annie Dookhan faces felony charges in the same court system where she allegedly corrupted evidence in drug trials, another branch of the state’s government is weighing what it will cost to sort through the mess she made in the state’s criminal justice system.

After her grand jury indictment last week, Dookhan pleaded not guilty to 15 charges, including eight counts of tampering with evidence, five counts of obstruction of justice, one count of perjury and one count of falsifying a resume.

A statewide grand jury charged Dookhan with corrupting the justice system in specific cases. The defendants listed in the indictments against Dookhan are Larry Blue, Carlos Pineda, Brad Flowers, Jeffrey Banks, and Paul Reeves, and the dates of her alleged crimes range from May 18, 2009 — when Dookhan allegedly obstructed justice in a trial of Pineda — to July 1, 2011 – when Dookhan alleged obstructed justice in a criminal case against Banks.

During the arraignment assistant attorney general Anne Kaczmarek clarified Dookhan’s alleged crime, which occurred during her employment at the Hinton criminal drug lab — since shuttered — in Jamaica Plain.

“Ms. Dookhan was not tampering with the actual drug sample. She was tampering with the testing vials,” Kaczmarek told the court. “She was doing that, we believe, to make her original confirmation of the drugs match what the (mass spectrometer) objective test came back to.”

Because her actions allegedly led to false convictions in drug cases and threw thousands of convictions into question, Dookhan has drawn the ire of defense attorneys, prosecutors and others around the state.

A team of attorneys is sorting through the paper trail of Dookhan’s work, which lasted from 2003 until last March when she resigned under scrutiny. Meanwhile, government officials from district attorneys, to public defenders, and municipal officials have requested millions of dollars to handle the additional caseload and monitor newly released defendants.

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