BOSTON — A chemist accused of lying about drug samples she tested at a state lab could face additional charges as prosecutors and defense attorneys sift through thousands of criminal cases that could be upended by her actions.
Annie Dookhan, 34, of Franklin, was arrested Friday in a burgeoning investigation that has already led to the shutdown of the lab, the resignation of the state’s public health commissioner and the release of more than a dozen drug defendants.
Many more defendants are expected to be released. Authorities say more than 1,100 inmates are serving time in cases in which Dookhan was the primary or secondary chemist.
“Annie Dookhan’s alleged actions corrupted the integrity of the entire criminal justice system,” state Attorney General Martha Coakley said during a news conference after Dookhan’s arrest. “There are many victims as a result of this.”
Dookhan faces more than 20 years in prison on charges of obstruction of justice and falsely pretending to hold a degree from a college or university. She testified under oath that she holds a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts, but school officials say they have no record of her receiving an advanced degree or taking graduate courses there.
State police say Dookhan tested more than 60,000 drug samples involving 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Boston. Defense lawyers and prosecutors are scrambling to figure out how to deal with the fallout.
Assistant Attorney General John Verner called the charges against Dookhan “preliminary” and said a “much broader” investigation is being conducted.
Verner said state police learned of Dookhan’s alleged actions in July after they interviewed a chemist at the lab who said he had observed “many irregularities” in Dookhan’s work.
Verner said Dookhan later acknowledged to state police that she sometimes would take 15 to 25 samples and instead of testing them all, she would test only five of them, then list them all as positive. She said that sometimes, if a sample tested negative, she would take known cocaine from another sample and add it to the negative sample to make it test positive for cocaine, Verner said.
Dookhan pleaded not guilty and was later released on $10,000 bail. She was ordered to turn over her passport, submit to GPS monitoring, and not have contact with any former or current employees of the lab.
NY Daily News