Today the Massachusetts’ highest court ordered prosecutors to review over 20,000 controlled substance cases involving Annie Dookham, a former state chemist.
Back in 2013, Ms. Dookhan pleaded guilty to 17 counts of Obstruction of Justice, 8 counts of Tampering with Evidence, Perjury, and Falsely Pretending to Hold a Degree from a College or University. Ms. Dookhan worked as a chemist in the drug analysis unit at a laboratory testing suspected controlled substances. Her test results were used to obtain drug convictions, results she admitted to faking or tampering with in order to favor the prosecution.
Because of Ms. Dookhan’s actions, the Court ordered prosecutors to review the cases, and either vacate and dismiss cases or be willing to retry cases with independent evidence not tainted by Ms. Dookhan’s faked test results. The Court further stated the expectation that a large number of cases will be dismissed after review, and warned of dismissing the remaining cases without prejudice should the demand for public defenders exceed the supply.
In Minnesota, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) has accredited laboratories for testing of suspected illegal drugs, DNA, and fingerprints. During a trial, BCA scientists testify as to the amount and kind controlled substances admitted as evidence. Without this scientific testimony, many cases would not even proceed to trial. Because accurate scientific testimony is so critical to drug prosecutions, having scientists testify falsely and generate fraudulent reports undermines the whole criminal judicial system as innocent people could be convicted and imprisoned.
Read more about MN controlled substance laws here.
Coley Grostyan is a criminal lawyer defending those accused of drug offenses throughout the State of Minnesota.