BOSTON (AP) – Gov. Deval Patrick has ordered a “file-by-file review” of every case handled by a Massachusetts chemist accused of faking test results at a now-closed government lab, as authorities continue to deal with the fallout from a scandal that threatens to unravel thousands of criminal cases.
The chemist, Annie Dookhan, is accused of skirting protocols and manipulating drug samples at a former Department of Public Health drug lab where she worked for nine years. She has pleaded not guilty to charges in the case, but prosecutors said in a court motion Tuesday they expect she will be indicted.
The scandal has already led to hundreds of legal challenges to criminal convictions in cases in which Dookhan tested drug samples.
David Meier, a former state prosecutor appointed by the governor to identify cases Dookhan worked on, said Tuesday that Patrick has authorized a massive review of Dookhan’s cases, estimated to number about 34,000.
“In order to do that, the governor has decided to devote whatever resources are necessary to do a file-by-file review of each of her cases,” Meier said.
Speaking to reporters, Meier said his team has identified about 10,000 people whose drug cases were potentially affected by Dookhan’s alleged misconduct.
The group initially focused on identifying about 2,000 people who were already in prison or in custody awaiting trial in cases in which Dookhan tested drugs. Those cases have been making their way through the courts in special sessions set up to handle the large number of legal challenges. The cases were given top priority because the defendants involved were incarcerated and had the right to seek release on bail while their challenges are resolved by judges.
Meier said his team has identified 7,000 to 8,000 other people who were previously convicted in Superior Court or are on probation or parole now in cases handled by Dookhan.
He said many of the remaining 24,000 cases may involve people whose cases were handled in district or municipal courts, where the majority of drug charges are adjudicated.
Meier said he expects the review of Dookhan’s cases could take three to four months, if not longer. He said his staff may have to look through all or most of the files at the lab to determine which cases Dookhan worked on as either a primary chemist who performed an initial test on a substance or as a secondary chemist who performed a confirmatory test.
Dookhan, 35, of Franklin was charged in September with obstruction of justice and falsifying her academic credentials. An assistant attorney general said at the time that the charges were “preliminary” and that a “much broader” investigation was being conducted.
On Tuesday, a Boston Municipal Court judge granted a motion filed by state Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office asking that a pretrial hearing scheduled for Dec. 3 be rescheduled to Dec. 20.
In the motion filed in court, prosecutors said the continuance was being sought because “a grand jury investigation is on-going with indictments expected” after Dec. 3.
The motion said Dookhan’s defense attorney agreed to the continuance.
Dookhan, who is free on $10,000 bail, hasn’t responded to repeated requests for comment. Her attorney, Nicolas Gordon, did not respond Tuesday to requests for comment.
Brad Puffer, a spokesman for Coakley, also declined to comment on whether the indictments could include additional charges against Dookhan.
The Department of Public Health lab where Dookhan worked was shut down in August after state police took over as part of a state budget directive and discovered that the problems in Dookhan cases went beyond some isolated irregularities.
Coakley’s office is conducting a criminal investigation, while state Inspector General Glenn Cunha is reviewing whether the problems at the lab went beyond Dookhan and her immediate supervisor.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets
- 5 reasons to look forward to watching the D-backs this season
- Common virus attributed to spike in head and neck cancers
- 5 signs it’s time to end your timeshare ownership
- 3 most overlooked ways to keep your home healthy
- 6 ways the air in your home could be making you sick
- CrossFit dangers: 5 common injuries and how to deal with them
- Today's radiation treatments offer better success, fewer side effects
- Tips to make watching TV on the patio even better
- What really happens when you donate to a community college?
- Sun and skin cancer: Separating fact from fiction
- 5 critical lifestyle changes for a healthy colon