Photos Reveal Sloppy Conditions At Now-Closed Drug Lab

On Feb. 1, the inspector general's office found green vegetable matter and miscellaneous contents in a drying hood cabinet located in the now-closed Jamaica Plain drug laboratory, according to State Police documents.

On Feb. 1, the inspector general’s office found green vegetable matter and miscellaneous contents in a drying hood cabinet located in the now-closed Hinton drug lab, according to State Police documents.

BOSTON — Some Massachusetts defense attorneys say they’re astonished by the latest evidence from the state drug lab scandal.

State Police investigators reviewing operations at the now-closed Hinton Drug Lab in Jamaica Plain have found photos indicating that the lab was in disarray.

In hundreds of photos from investigators, drug samples are shown stored all over the Hinton lab: in drawers, cabinets, even in manila folders inside file cabinets.

Anne Goldbach is forensic services director for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the state agency that handles legal representation for poor people, many of whom have cases connected to the drug lab scandal. In an interview, Goldbach pointed to a photo of an apparent drug sample in a plastic bag taped inside a desk cabinet. Written in marker is the description “found by garbage can.”

“This doesn’t surprise me based on everything else that I’ve read about what was going on at that lab,” she said. “But it certainly is demonstrative evidence that there were very lax standards at the lab.”

The photos are part of the state inspector general’s investigation of the lab after former chemist Annie Dookhan was charged with falsifying drug tests and potentially compromising tens of thousands of criminal cases.

View several more images from the new discovery evidence:

To Goldbach, the photos indicate that the problem is larger than Dookhan.

“Certainly it’s not just a situation of one rogue chemist,” she said. “If anything you had people looking away. You had lack of supervision. You had a lack of standards.”

A spokesperson for the inspector general said the photos are “evidence that we are doing a very meticulous and thorough investigation.”

With that investigation not expected to be finished for months, though, district attorneys say they are preparing now for how to handle the cases where Dookhan tested the evidence.

“We think we’ve been provided enough information to make our own conclusions about the entirety of the situation,” Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone said. “Not just Annie Dookhan, but what we’re seeing is an indictment of that lab in Jamaica Plain.”

Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey doesn’t go quite that far, but he does say his office is reviewing all cases where Dookhan was involved, and he admits that most of the cases probably will be dismissed.

“They’re very hard to save,” Morrissey said. “We’re looking to see if there are admissions or things that may affect the case but they become increasingly much harder not to dismiss.”

Across the state slightly more than 300 people have been released from custody because their charges were based on drugs tested by Dookhan. Fewer than two dozen of them have been rearrested.

Goldbach, with the state’s public defender agency, believes prosecutors should dismiss every case where Dookhan was involved.

“If they cannot prove these cases beyond a reasonable doubt because they have faulty evidence, then it is their job to dismiss these cases,” she said. “That is what’s just. That is what’s fair.”

But a broad solution on how to deal with Dookhan-related cases is not expected any time soon. The state Supreme Judicial Court is expected to rule next month on some questions regarding legal procedure. But SJC Justice Margot Botsford says it’s too early to determine whether there is one standard for all of the estimated 34,000 cases affected by the scandal.

View a sample document filed within the latest discovery evidence provided to attorneys involved in the drug lab investigation:

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on wbur.org.
  • jefe68

    The thing that I want to know as a tax payer is this. Where was the oversight?

    Who was in charge here? How many years was this going on?

    The bottom line for me is this is a very good example of how a government agency can be misrun and in this case it means the legality of every drug case that has gone through this lab is now under scrutiny.

    One thing for sure what ever system the state has in place now should be completely overhauled. This is a disgrace.

  • X-Ray

    The finger always points at Dookhan but she didn’t operate along or in a vacuum.
    Were there not managers, administrators and even co-workers who were responsible
    for the lab’s operation, management and administration? The problems which
    existed for so long a time and in so many cases must have been obvious to
    anyone who was involved. All those people were duplicitous and must be held

  • sjw81

    This is a disgrace and proves yet again the state or fed govt can pass all the laws in the world to feel good, and have 100s of regulations yet all of it means nothing but meaningless overhead and expenses; and not solving the problem or doing the proper oversite or even holding anyone ever, accountable. Where was oversight? Who was in charge? Probabtion dept runs wild, housing in chelsea is out of control and paying itself millions, and this pharmacy has not one person in govt to really truly do thier job and oversee it. Yet we have these positions funded by taxpayers-who is supposedly doing this ?

    just like the SEC missed the whole wall st scams of 2008, and Madoff ponzi schemes…who knew?!

  • http://twitter.com/Jamiefolk45 Jamie Folk

    This was going on for ten years. There was no oversight. If you go to boston.com and search Annie Dookhan you will find a story about her close relationships with DAs. They didn’t care about the science, all they cared about was getting convictions and locking people in jail. We spent over half a billion dollars last year just locking people away. What does that tell you? Our criminal justice system is a for profit system and we the tax payers are the suckers. The root cause of this problem is the drug war itself. It costs a fortune and gives us nothing. We need to end it.

  • wow978

    This makes me sick…. nothing at all should be confidential…. sorry da’s every singe case should be dismissed…. all the scandals with labs, dirty cops, dirty ada’s how can anyone believe in our justice system…. the adas who knew of scandal before public did who failed to disclose prior to any indictment should be held on brady violations and charged with misconduct!

Most Popular