A crime, that in turn affected 40,000 criminal cases in Massachusetts

A chemist gets sentenced for faulty lab work.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: Annie Dookhan – a former chemist and drug analyst who conducted lab work for criminal investigations in the state of Massachusetts – has been sentenced to three-to-five years behind bars for providing faulty lab work to state litigators that may have led to thousands of false convictions.

Dookhan was charged with 27 criminal counts for her malfeasance, including filing false reports, tampering with evidence, and misleading investigators. Prosecutors sought a harsher sentence of five-to-seven years for Dookhan, saying that the severity of her actions mandated a stricter sentence, while her attorney argued for a maximum of one year, saying that his client had confessed her guilt and was repentant.

Dookhan confessed her guilt in August, one year after prosecutors uncovered evidence of her falsifying drug tests so that she would look like a better, more productive employee in the eyes of her bosses at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute, in Jamaica Plain, MA. According to a report by The Boston Globe, at a time when the average number of tests done by lab employees was 1,981 per year, Dookhan was performing 6,321.

Some of her colleagues voiced their suspicions early on, noticing that Dookhan had forged initials on paperwork and would often mislabel samples; for instance, samples Dookhan labeled as being cocaine would later on be revealed as heroin. Despite the misgivings some had about her work performance, Dookhan retained her job at the Hinton lab from 2003 to 2012.

Dookhan admitted to prosecutors that in 2009 specifically, she began “dry labbing” – the practice of stating the result of a lab test without actually having conducted the test – and continued to do so until she was caught in 2012.

The revelation that the 36 year-old was providing phony evidence to the courts is now estimated to have affected an astonishing 40,000 individual criminal cases throughout the state. By this past August, roughly 600 convicts had either been released on bail or had their convictions temporarily nullified until a new trial could be undertaken, as a direct consequence of Dookhan’s actions. And as of earlier this month, Massachusetts courts have held nearly 3,000 hearings from defendants who have requested release from jail and their records expunged due to Dookhan’s involvement with their cases.

Dookhan has a history of overachieving in her academic and professional careers, even if it meant being less than honest with her colleagues and even her family. She falsified her salary on at least one of her resumes when applying for a job, and is said to have had marital troubles with her now-estranged husband. She has one child, but has suffered at least two miscarriages as well, which some say has led to a degree of mental instability with Dookhan.

In addition to her jail term, Dookhan has been given two years’ probation, part of which will involve her undergoing psychiatric treatment.

Dookhan was born Annie Sadiyya Khan in 1977, in San Fernando, Trinidad. She is the only child of her parents, Rasheed and Samdaye Khan. Her family moved to the Boston area in the late 1980s, where Dookhan has remained since.

To contact the author, email to deepakchitnis@americanbazaaronline.com

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