A former Massachusetts state chemist who mishandled drug evidence in criminal cases pleaded guilty last week and was given a sentence of three to five years in prison.
Annie Dookhan, whose actions threw Massachusetts’ criminal justice system into disarray, quietly pleaded guilty in Suffolk County Superior Court
Dookhan falsified drug tests to try to look like a productive employee. This has caused hundreds of drug convicts to be released, and it raised many questions about thousands of drug cases. Massachusetts has had to spend millions of dollars to deal with the problems that Dookhan caused.
Dookhan was in the courtroom in handcuffs. She spoke quietly to her lawyer after the sentence was handed down, then she was led out of the room.
During the sentencing hearing, she looked at one of the prosecutors without emotion, as the prosecutor stated the facts and talked about how her actions had harmed the state and its citizens.
Prosecutors wanted a 5-7 year sentence, and her attorney argued for a one year sentence.
Sentencing guidelines in Massachusetts call for a maximum time of three years in prison in such cases. But the judge stated that she wanted to impose a bigger sentence, given the harm that has been done to the citizens of Massachusetts in the case.
The judge stated that what she did has caused catastrophic things to happen in Massachusetts. Innocent people were put in prison, guilty people were released, and millions of public tax dollars are being spent to deal with all of the problems Dookhan caused.
The governor’s office states that various agencies have spent over eight million dollars this year on problems related to the case. The state legislature has approprirated another $8.6 million for expenses related to the case.
According to Anthony Benedettie, the chief counsel of the state public defender bureau, the problems from the drug lab scandal are ongoing and cannot be ignored or wished away. He stated that the problems stemming from the lab scandal continue, and thousands of people continue to suffer for what Doookhan did.
Benedetti and Martin Healy, who is the general counsel for the MA Bar Assn., said last week that they both wanted to see what the conclusions are of Inspector General Glenn Cunha, who is doing a major investigation into the scandal.
Healy said that the public and the legal community still need answers about what exactly transpired during the scandal. They want to know how big the problem was and if other people were involved.
State investigators say that the actions of Dookhan may have tainted tens of thousands of drug cases.
A total of 950 people have been given 2922 special Superior Court hearings since fall 2012, when the scale of the scandal became clear. Also, the state has released over 300 people who were convicted of state or federal drug charges where Dookhan was involved. Court records also show that more than 605 people have had convictions erased or set aside temporarily pending new trials.
And one of the people who was freed has been accused since of shooting and killing a Boston man in May.