BOSTON — Special court sessions are being set up around Massachusetts to handle a flood of legal challenges expected by drug defendants in the wake of a scandal at a state drug testing lab.
Chemist Annie Dookhan was charged with obstruction of justice last week after allegedly acknowledging to state police that she failed to follow testing protocols and altered results at the now-closed lab.
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Court administrators announced Monday that hearings will be held in Suffolk Superior Court the weeks of Oct. 15 and Oct. 22 for defendants currently serving sentences in Suffolk County cases in which Dookhan tested samples. Judge Christine McEvoy will hear motions to put sentences on hold and to request bail.
Administrators said Tuesday judges have also been assigned to run special sessions in district courts throughout the state, including in Fall River, Salem, Cambridge, Dedham, Brockton, Springfield, Worcester and Barnstable. No dates have been set.
Dookhan’s alleged mishandling of drug samples prompted the shutdown of the lab in August and led to the resignation of the state’s public health commissioner.
State police, who took over operation of the lab from the Department of Public health on July 1, have said Dookhan tested more than 60,000 samples covering 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the lab. State officials said last week that they have identified more than 1,100 defendants who are currently serving time in county jails or state prisons based on samples tested by Dookhan.
The special court sessions are being set up for the purpose of assigning lawyers and “addressing the immediate liberty interests of the incarcerated defendants serving time in connection with a drug conviction stemming from a questionable drug analysis,” the public information office of the Supreme Judicial Court said in a statement.
Dookhan has pleaded not guilty.