BOSTON Massachusetts State Police reports of interviews with former chemist Annie Dookhan and her associates at the now-shuttered state drug lab are triggering new questions and darker assessments in the widening scandal of falsification and fraudulence in the handling of drug evidence used to convict criminal defendants.
“I think any case in which she was involved is inherently tainted,” said defense attorney Edward Ryan, the former president of the Massachusetts Bar Association. “Meaning that anyone convicted as a result of any work she did, that conviction should be vacated forthwith.”
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That assessment follows the disclosure of a statement, signed by Dookhan in front of the police detectives, that she intentionally turned negative drug tests into positive drug tests and often got her results by eyeballing rather than testing.
Just as stunning are the interviews with former associates and supervisors that indicate Dookhan was suspected of or seen engaged in improprieties over a number of years, but was never reported until June 2011 or fully investigated until now.
The consistent line by Gov. Deval Patrick, Secretary of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby and John Auerbach, the now-resigned commissioner of state’s Department of Public Health, has been that Dookhan was a “rogue chemist.” But the picture emerging is that of a rogue laboratory that operated without checking and retesting, enforced protocols or measures taken to test those doing the testing.
The state police report obtained by WBUR details witness statements that say assistant district attorneys would call Dookhan directly to look up data, a circumvention of protocols that dictated prosecutors and police should go through the evidence office of the drug lab.
Suffolk County prosecutors are said to have asked for Dookhan by name. One associate says Dookhan would get calls on her cellphone from assistant district attorneys — no other chemist got such calls.
Dookhan always requested drug samples from Norfolk County, according to a chemist who once called Dookhan “the superwoman of the lab.” Dookhan’s coworker told police that Dookhan asked for specific drug samples by evidence control number, another distinct breach of protocol.
“I think the entire laboratory’s communications with prosecutors and police should be turned over,” attorney Ryan said. “If there is any DA’s office that has email exchanges with anyone at that lab — and particularly Annie Dookhan — those need to be turned over.
“Let’s see who the assistant DAs were. I think any assistant district attorney who asked for her personally needs to be interviewed to determine what the relationship was,” Ryan continued. “Why were they asking for Annie Dookhan specifically? And what did they want? We need to get to the bottom of what was going on.”
The state police detectives who conducted the interviews in August are affiliated with the office of Attorney General Martha Coakley, who is conducting the criminal investigation. But some defense attorneys argue the most recent revelations bolster the need for Coakley to appoint a special prosecutor in the interest of transparency and appearance. Which makes the story of Annie Dookhan and the state drug lab a story that’s getting bigger, not smaller.