State Drug Lab Scandal

What emotional response would I gather if I told you that because of “evidence mishandling,” around 34,000 criminal cases have been tampered with. Shocking, isn’t it? The law enforcement community is in an uproar because Annie Dookhan, a nine year chemist at a state drug lab may have tampered with drug evidence from thousands of individual cases and may have “manipulated drugs to increase weight, thus stiffening defendants’ penalties.”

Sounds like Annie’s agenda just created a giant sink hole in the justice system. The fallout from this mess is only now becoming clear. Immigrants convicted of these charges may have already been deported, property seized from these cases may have already been auctioned, and it could even have an effect on the jury selection process. This is another incident that unfortunately, the citizens of Massachusetts will have to deal with.

The head of the Chelsea Police Department, Brian Kyes, commented on the situation, “As a police chief, I’m just in fear that the perception and integrity of law enforcement has taken a good shot. We’re also looking at what happened in these cases.  Was an individual convicted? If they were, what were they convicted of? Was it something specific to these drugs? We’re really trying to be proactive to get an in-depth analysis of what we’re looking at.”

I respect law enforcement – I know that there are a lot of hard-working people that actually want to make a difference in our society. So, let it be known that while this is an awful screw up, I wouldn’t let it paint law enforcement in a less than flattering light. The thing that astonishes me here is how long it took for this to be stopped. There should obviously be more precautionary measures to take when handling one drug case, let alone thousands!

There are already 1,140 cases of those who were sentenced based on the potentially tainted evidence, with 690 of these people in state prisons, and the other 450 are serving time in county jail. What exacerbates the situation even more is the fact that officials are still unsure of what may have caused contamination.

I can’t comprehend the fact that there appears to be information about the case open to the public, yet Dookhan hasn’t even been charged because they are still investigating her. Since the lab was closed, judges have already begun to hear motions filed by defense attorneys seeking bail reductions for defendants awaiting trial in cases handled by Dookhan. Prosecutors have agreed to many of these motions, citing possibly tainted evidence.

Another part of this story is the fact that those who are actually guilty parties could potentially be set free.  Such is the case for David Huffman. The 55-year-old had pleaded guilty in August to trafficking heroin and cocaine, possession of oxycodone with the intent to distribute, and unlawful possession of ammunition and a firearm as an armed career criminal. He began serving concurrent seven to 10-year sentences last month. It is ludicrous that this man has the potential key to freedom based on a technicality. I won’t even waste the time to discuss this, he was found with heroin, coke and a gun: the man is clearly guilty.

No one has actually heard Dookhan’s excuse… I mean her side of the story.  It will probably be a tacky, cliché, melodramatic story of how she had no choice and then she be painted as some sort of martyr.  I am getting ahead of myself again. She could have a really good explanation for tampering with as many as 60,000 drug samples, changing the course of many lives, ruining her nine-year career, and shoving our law enforcement into a sink hole. Yes, oh boy, I cannot wait to hear what her side of the story is.