Tax payers to bear the brunt of drug lab scandal


I’m feeling pretty nostalgic right now. Remember that time when Annie Dookhan, a nine-year chemist at a state drug lab, “may have” tampered with drug evidence from separate cases and may have “manipulated drugs to increase weight, thus stiffening defendants penalties?”  Over 34,000 cases were tampered with, and of the 1,140 cases where sentencing was based on the potentially tainted evidence, 690 of these people are in state prisons and the other 450 are serving time in county jail. Does anyone remember when I said, “this is another incident that unfortunately, the citizens of Massachusetts will have to deal with the collateral damage?”

Well surprise, surprise: it seems that the sinkhole caused by Dookhan’s tampering will cost the state of Massachusetts and its lovely citizens well over $332 million. Yes, that is correct, you heard me, $332 million simply to represent thousands of people who faced criminal charges based on potentially tainted evidence at the now-closed state drug lab in Jamaica Plain.

Attorney David Meier said his team has identified at least 10,000 people so far who were prosecuted based on drug testing conducted by Dookhan during the nine years she worked at the Department of Public Health lab. A number that is not solid yet as this is a “worst case scenario” number, but I think that any number is an outrage. Prosecutors have figured that $12.7 million will be needed for more prosecutors, support staff, and in some cases, office space and computers, just for all of the Dookhan related cases. I still feel like we haven’t seen the worst of this case yet, and that this is just the tip of the tampered iceberg, because everyone’s’ eyes are seeing green in the worst way.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office said Tuesday that 110 imprisoned defendants convicted in drug cases involving Dookhan have had their sentences put on hold in Suffolk Superior Court. About 40 defendants being prosecuted in the Boston Municipal Court system have also had sentences put on hold and nearly 200 inmates have been released from prison and their cases have been put on hold for the time being.

On Tuesday, officials said Governor Deval Patrick has ordered a “file-by-file review” of every case handled by the chemist. It still astonishes me that with all the dramatics in this situation, I have yet to hear words from Annie Dookhan. I wonder how this is playing out consciously, and how she feels morally at this very moment. She has created a financial disaster that could loom over the state for who knows how long!

On the other hand, if anything, Massachusetts can learn from this horrible situation. This could help lead to a complete shuffling of the status quo of the state drug admission. It might sound redundant, but we need to make sure something like this can’t happen again. If there is to be any just order in modern society, we have to depend on a system that gives us a fair trial, not an empty ritual.  As the cost of Dookhan’s corruption continues to soar, we can only stay positive and hope that it is not going to take $332 million to fix this.

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