A Massachusetts state chemist has been sentenced to three to five years in prison after pleading guilty to 27 counts of obstruction of justice, perjury, tampering with evidence and other charges.
Annie Dookhan, 35, falsified drug test results, forged signatures and lied about her academic credentials during her nine-year tenure at Hinton State Lab, located in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, news site Raw Story reports.
The state of Massachusetts believes as many as 40,323 cases have been compromised as a result of Dookhan’s actions, but the American Civil Liberties Union says the number is even higher, since the Hinton State Lab was responsible for more than 100,000 cases while Dookhan was employed there, Raw Story reports.
“The Massachusetts drug lab scandal has tainted as many as 190,000 cases,” Matthew R. Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, told Raw Story. “But the approach to addressing the crisis taken by the Commonwealth and the Essex County District Attorney -- retrying cases one by one, and keeping defendants in prison while they wait in line for court hearings --has worsened it.”
More than 300 people have since been released from prison as a result of Dookhan’s actions, Gawker reports. A man named Donte Hood, sentenced to five years in prison for cocaine distribution after Dookhan testified about handling evidence at his trial, was subsequently released in the wake of the Massachusetts drug-lab scandal. He's now back in prison on first-degree murder charges. At least 50 of the 300 released have been rearrested.
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“Annie Dookhan’s egregious misconduct sent ripple effects throughout our entire criminal justice system,” Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said. “Her deliberate decision to tamper with drug evidence and fabricate test results harmed the integrity of the system and put the public’s safety at risk.”
In 2010, Dookhan's superiors began to suspect something was wrong due to her unusually fast case turnover, Gawker reports. A year later, she was suspended for forging a coworker's signature. A year and a half after her suspension, she admitted she falsified drug-test results in multiple cases.