Convicted chemist 'sole bad actor' at Mass. crime lab, but IG report questions 2,300 tests by others

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A now-convicted chemist serving a 3- to 5-year prison term was the “sole bad actor” in a scandal over falsified test results at a Massachusetts drug-testing laboratory, says a report released today by a state inspector general.

But the IG also said protocols and supervision were lacking at the now-shuttered Jamaica Plain facility and questioned the accuracy of 2,300 tests that were not performed by rogue chemist Annie Dookhan, according to the Boston Globe (sub. req.) and Cape Cod Times.

Samples used for those 2,300 tests will now be retested to determine whether conclusions reached by the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute were correct.

“The Drug Lab lacked formal and uniform protocols with respect to many of its basic operations, including training, chain of custody and testing methods. wrote IG Glenn A. Cunha in his 129-page report (PDF). “This lack of direction, caused in part by the Drug Lab’s lack of accreditation, allowed chemists to create their own insufficient, discordant practices.”

He also concluded that the 40,323 cases on which Dookhan worked directly between 2003 and 2012 should be “treated as suspect and be subject to careful review,’’ the Globe reports.

However, aside from the 2,300 tests conducted by others that he pointed out, there is no reason to question the results of tens of thousands of drug tests in which Dookhan had no role, Cunha concluded.

General counsel Martin Healy of the Massachusetts Bar Association disagrees. He said every test performed by the lab is questionable, due to the fact that Dookhan may have had access to the materials and the lack of supervision.

“We may have people in prison who ought not to be there. And we are never really going to know for sure,’’ Healy told the Globe. “That’s the real tragedy here. There is still going to be a dark cloud over the lab. The fact is Dookhan had access and there was no oversight.”

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Former Mass. chemist gets 3 to 5 years as probe of state crime-lab issues continues”

ABAJournal.com: “In wake of crime lab scandal, ACLU asks top state court for dismissal of 40,000 cases”

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