Prosecutors and defense attorneys in Massachusetts are faced with reevaluating more than 34,000 drug cases that were handled by a chemist who is accused of misconduct, the Associated Press reports. They are starting with 1,140 cases of people already in prison, based on evidence that is potentially tainted.
According to state police, chemist Annie Dookhan failed to follow testing protocols. They say she deliberately mishandled evidence in some cases. David Meier, a defense attorney and former prosecutor who has been appointed to help deal with these cases, said it is not known how many samples may have been tainted.
Both sides want to first deal with people already in prison, Meier told the AP. He turned over a list of 690 people who are serving sentences in state prisons, as well as 450 in county jails. Lawyers in these cases must resolve them individually, he said. “The merits and any alleged issues in any one of those cases is for prosecutors and defense attorneys and judges to determine,” he said.
The list does not include thousands of people who are awaiting trial, are on probation, or are serving federal sentences in cases in which drug samples were tested by Dookan. She worked at the Boston lab for nine years. She resigned in March, during an internal investigation by the state Department of Public Health. Dookan has not been charged. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office is conducting a criminal investigation, the article notes.