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Week In Review: Mass. Crime Lab, Teachers Contract Agreement, Senate Race Attack Ads22:00
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Topping the big local stories this week, state authorities are still trying to assess the magnitude and the impact of the mishandling of tens of thousands of drug samples at a state crime lab in Boston.

Meanwhile, after 27 months of negotiations, the teachers union and the city have finally reached an agreement on a new contract.

And in the race for the U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Warren tries out a softer image, but is the first to go negative on the airwaves.


Mishandled Cases At Drug Testing Lab

From left: Secretary of Public Safety Mary Beth Heffernan, Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby and State Police Col. Timothy Alben announce the lab firings Thursday. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)
From left: Secretary of Public Safety Mary Beth Heffernan, Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby and State Police Col. Timothy Alben announce the lab firings Thursday. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)

Linda Han, the director of the drug testing lab suspected of mishandling thousands of cases, has resigned. A senior chemist, Julie Nassif, was fired. All this in the wake of revelations that another chemist — Annie Dookhan — routinely mishandled evidence testing in more than 30,000 criminal cases.

One of the thousands of cases at stake is that of David Danielli, who pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute oxycodone pills. But it was Annie Dookin who tested those drugs, so now Danielli's attorney has requested that Danielli be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea and be released from prison.

On Wednesday, the state's 11 district attorneys met with Governor Patrick. Among the suggestions was a "boiler room" be created to review the cases that might be involved. Michael O'Keefe, district attorney for the Cape and Islands, explained the goal of the meeting:

Our concern is the defendants who potentially did not receive a fair trial because of what may be tainted evidence from this laboratory. That's what we're focusing on at the moment so that we can clean up a mess that's not of our making.

Radio Boston spoke to Ed Ryan, a defense attorney and the former president of the Massachusetts Bar Association. Ryan said the problem is that law enforcement has too much involvement with these state labs:

There should be a single state agency that is independent, not beholden to the police, not operating at their direction, that should be an independent, neutral body of scientists operating under rigid protocols with some checks and balances. We don't have that here in the Commonwealth, and I am very concerned it's the cat watching the chicken coop.

Meanwhile, one of the interesting challenges that remains: the huge backlog of criminal case samples that would have been tested in the lab in Boston.


Tentative Agreement Between City And Teachers Union

Mayor Thomas Menino speaks at a press conference announcing the tentative labor agreement. Carol Johnson, superintendent of Boston Public Schools, stands behind him. Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union, stands on Johnson’s left. (Monica Brady-Myerov/WBUR)
Mayor Thomas Menino speaks at a press conference announcing the tentative labor agreement. Carol Johnson, superintendent of Boston Public Schools, stands behind him. Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union, stands on Johnson’s left. (Monica Brady-Myerov/WBUR)

After more than two years of contentious contract negotiations, the Boston Teachers Union and the city reached a tentative agreement.  Carol Johnson, superintendent of Boston Public Schools, said on Wednesday:

What this contract will achieve is a fundamental shift in the way our schools operate and meet the needs of all children.

The deal includes a three percent pay raise and changes in the way teachers are hired and evaluated. Furthermore, the importance of teacher seniority, one of the big sticking points, is diminished. In the past, teacher seniority drove the hiring process; now, principals will have a lot more flexibility.

The new contract also prevents teachers who get poor evaluations from getting automatic pay raises. Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union, commented:

We agreed on a proposal of performance evaluation that both of us could live with and both of us could work with in order to provide the best educational delivery of service to our members. So you could call that a concession or you could call that an agreement.

The city did concede on its push to lengthen the school day by two hours across the city. Instead, the city will rely on existing language to add time at a smaller number of schools.

The tentative deal will need approval by union members and the Boston City Council.


Attacks Heat Up Mass. Senate Race

A number of Democratic activists and critics had said Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who hopes to unseat Republican Scott Brown, comes across as too strong, too much of an advocate in a way that was alienating voters.

This week, her campaign released new TV ads, representing a shift from her earlier ads and showing what might be called a softer side. You don't hear her; you see her talking to voters, patting a worker on the arm, kneeling down and listening to a child:

WBUR's own political analyst, Dan Payne, argued that Warren needed to make a change in her advertising because he said women told him that they didn't like the way Warren was coming across:

I want her to just sound like a human being, not read the script that makes her sound like some angry, hectoring school marm. But I hate to say it, about politics, but we live in a celebrity-based society, so a candidate for high office is considered a celebrity as well as a political figure. And so you’re judged as a celebrity is judged: by the way you present yourself.

Payne says she needs to rework her self-presentation — lose the granny glasses, the blazer, the bossy image.

Meanwhile, the ad wars have gone negative. Warren's newest ad is filmed at a boxing gym in Lowell, featuring real people calling her "a real fighter" and saying Scott Brown "sides with the big money guys":

So that prompted this new ad from Brown, released Friday:

This segment aired on September 14, 2012.

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