Chemist Admits to Mass Misconduct

An analyst that worked for a state drug lab in Massachusetts has confessed to mishandling evidence in tens of thousands of drug cases.

Bob Grant
Bob Grant
Sep 27, 2012

About 34,000 drug cases in the Massachusetts legal system are imperiled by the misconduct of a single chemist who used to work in a now-shuttered Department of Public Health lab. Annie Dookhan, a chemist whose job was to analyze evidence gathered during arrests and investigations in narcotics cases, has admitted to improperly removing evidence from storage lockers, failing to perform proper tests on the drug evidence, and forging colleagues signatures for "two or three years," according to a State Police report obtained by the Boston Globe. “I messed up. I messed up bad. It’s my fault,” Dookhan told the state troopers last month (August 28), insisting that she acted alone. “I don’t want the lab to get in trouble.”

But Dookhan's sweeping misconduct caused the closure of the Jamaica Plain lab in August, and many of her supervisors have resigned or have been fired in the wake of the scandal, accused of missing warning signs that something was awry—such as Dookhan claiming to process 9,239 samples in 2004 while her peers tested an average of 2,938 samples. Linda Han, the lab's director, resigned. The lab's director of analytical chemistry, Julie Nassif, was fired. And Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach resigned earlier this month.

According to the Boston Globe, Massachusetts governor Duval Patrick's investigators have identified 1,141 inmates currently in state prisons or county jails based on evidence handled by Dookhan. Many more await trials now complicated by the scandal.