Former Massachusetts chemist faces misconduct charges in thousands of criminal cases

Former Massachusetts chemist faces misconduct charges in thousands of criminal cases

POSTED: Sunday, January 13, 2013 - 11:00pm

UPDATED: Sunday, January 13, 2013 - 11:04pm

A former Massachusetts state chemist accused of misconduct in thousands of criminal cases was arraigned in two different courts Wednesday on additional charges relating to her alleged false claims about holding a master's degree in chemistry.

In the morning, Annie Dookhan, 34, of Franklin, Massachusetts, pleaded not guilty to three counts of obstruction of justice in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn, Massachusetts. Her next court date there is February 8 for a pre-trial conference.

In the afternoon, she again pleaded not guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice in Norfolk Superior Court in Dedham, Massachusetts. She was released on her personal recognizance and is scheduled for another pre-trial conference there in February.

In December, Dookhan was indicted in Suffolk County in Boston on charges relating to alleged mishandling of evidence and obstruction.

She is facing charges in several counties in Massachusetts because she had previously testified in various trials in her former official capacity as a chemist.

In October, police arrested the former chemist on accusations that she had lied about drug evidence she handled while working at a state police lab and pretended to hold a master's degree in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts.

She allegedly "lied about the integrity of drug evidence that she analyzed," the attorney general said in a statement last year.

Massachusetts authorities are reviewing the sentences of 1,140 people who are in prison after being convicted with evidence at least partly provided by Dookhan.

The former chemist has admitted to wrongdoing during her nine-year employment with the Department of Public Health.

A preliminary investigation looked into every case Dookhan may have touched from 2003 until she left last March, and it is possible she touched 60,000 samples that were involved in 34,000 drug cases.

"There will be designated court sessions in each county to hear the cases," Chief Justice Robert Mulligan said last October in a statement. "The Trial Court is fully cooperating with the prosecutors and defense counsel who are responding to these issues."

State police were tipped off last July by Dookhan's co-workers at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory in Jamaica Plain who alleged her work might be unreliable.

At the time, state police were taking over what had previously been a Department of Public Health drug laboratory, which certified random drug tests for the police departments in Norfolk, Suffolk, Middlesex and Bristol Counties, as well as for Cape Cod and the nearby islands.

During the takeover, authorities learned from employees how they were afraid to verify the work of Dookhan, said a spokesman for the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick ordered the lab to be shut down on August 30. 

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