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Forensic Lab Failures, Part 3- Boston

Posted by Kevin Trombold DUI Defense Attorney | Jun 09, 2014 | 0 Comments

Forensic Lab Failures
This is the latest in a series about failures in forensic laboratories throughout the United States. Many people believe that these labs are always accurate and unbiased, but this belief is undermined by the number of scandals which have been reported at these facilities in recent years.

Hundreds of drug convictions have been vacated in Boston as a result of what is being known as the Annie Dookhan scandal. Dookhan was a lab technician for nine years at a drug-testing laboratory that was overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The lab was closed two years ago after Dookhan admitted to tampering with evidence and failing to test the majority of the some 40,000 samples that she handled there. She is now serving a prison sentence of up to five years.

Some of the accusations of wrongdoing perpetrated by Dookhan include forging colleagues' signatures on lab reports, purposely contaminating drug samples, and falsifying test results. She also allegedly claimed to have a master's degree in chemistry, which turned out to be untrue.

Because of Dookhan's misconduct, about 2,300 samples are having to be retested, putting thousands of drug convictions in jeopardy. In the wake of Dookhan's arrest, John Auerbach, the state's Public Health Commissioner, has resigned; as has Norfolk Assistant District Attorney George Papachristos. In addition, one manager at the lab was fired and another resigned.

An investigation into the scandal resulted in a report that was released in March of this year. The Massachusetts inspector general's report found that Dookhan was the "sole actor" in the affair, but noted that her colleagues noticed discrepancies in Dookhan's work and reported them to authorities - but these allegations were never acted upon. The report identified management failures, and said, "The directors were ill-suited to oversee a forensic drug lab, provided almost no supervision, were habitually unresponsive to chemist's [sic] complaints and suspicions, and severely downplayed Dookhan's major breach in chain-of-custody protocol upon discovering it."

The potential future ramifications for law enforcement in Boston are enormous. And it's another example of just how dodgy some forensic crime lab practices and personnel can be.

About the Author

Kevin Trombold DUI Defense Attorney

Highly rated by former clients, who praise his warm, knowledgeable courtside manner and his fierce determination to reduce or eliminate charges. An accomplished speaker, author, and leader in DUI defense statewide Kevin is well respected by judges, prosecutors, and other attorneys across the State of Washington for his expertise, integrity, and knowledge in the complicated forensic science area of impaired driving allegations.


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