State lab chemist guilty of evidence-tampering

December 6, 2013
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The former drug-lab chemist at the heart of an evidence-tampering scandal at Jamaica Plain’s William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute pleaded guilty last month and was sentenced to 3 to 5 years in prison.

Annie Dookhan, 36, of Franklin, was arrested last year, and the State Police shuttered the drug testing lab. Dookhan was convicted Nov. 22 of 27 charges, including obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence, perjury and falsely pretending to hold a university degree.

“Annie Dookhan’s egregious misconduct sent ripple effects throughout our entire criminal justice system,” said state Attorney General Martha Coakley in a press statement. “Her deliberate decision to tamper with drug evidence and fabricate test results harmed the integrity of the system and put the public’s safety at risk.”

Dookhan faked evidence in criminal trials to aid the prosecution and lied in court about having a master’s degree, prosecutors said. When her tampering was discovered, it led to a multi-million-dollar court review of thousands of drug cases and several convictions being thrown out.

The scandal also revealed mismanagement of the State Lab at 305 South St., which includes many other labs. That included a failure to get the drug lab accredited. Several state officials resigned in the wake of the scandal.

Dookhan previously worked at another lab in the same building, helping to make vaccines. A former coworker previously told the Gazette she cut minor corners and lied about having a higher degree in that job as well. There does not appear to have been any official investigation of those claims.

The State Lab has a history of similar scandals that did not gain such major attention. In 1985, a drug lab chemist was charged with stealing drug evidence. In 2003, the State Lab’s director was revealed to have a mail-order doctoral degree, but was allowed to keep his job.

An independent review last year found that the State Lab’s operations were generally safe, but had management problems that could lead to future issues.