Former Massachusetts state chemist Annie Dookhan pleaded guilty Friday to falsifying the results of tens and thousands of drug tests, leading to the false imprisonment — and the unjustified release — of tens of thousands charged with drug-related crimes.
Dookhan initially denied the charges before pleading guilty to 27 charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and tampering with evidence Friday, CS Monitor reported.
Dookhan admitted that she had filed false test results, “dry labbed,” or tested only a few in a batch of samples, and mixed drug samples, as well as lied under oath about her job qualifications.
The story presented to the court Friday was one of an overly ambitious woman and single mother of a disabled child who, despite the mitigating conditions of her sad circumstances, wreaked havoc on the Massachusetts justice system.
Judge Carol S. Ball, who delivered Dookhan's sentence of three to five years in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston, said that “the consequences of her behavior, which she ought to have foreseen, have been nothing short of catastrophic."
“Innocent persons were incarcerated, guilty persons have been released to further endanger the public, millions and millions of public dollars are being expended to deal with the chaos Ms. Dookhan created, and the integrity of the criminal justice system has been shaken to the core,” the judge added.
The sentence fell short of the five to seven years prosecutors asked for. State Representative Bradley H. Jones Jr. stated his opinion that “three to five years is not adequate” in light of the ongoing ramifications of Dookhan’s misconduct.
Since the Department of Public Health lab where Dookhan worked was closed in August of 2012, at least 1,100 criminal cases have been dismissed due to tainted evidence, Associated Press reported.
The fallout has been severe on all sides: The Boston Globe reported that more than 600 defendants were released on bail pending new trials or have had their convictions erased or set aside. At least 83 have since been arrested and charged with other crimes, including one man who was arrested for a drug-related homicide in May.
The state has spent $8.5 million reviewing the cases and holding special hearings, with an additional $8.6 million budgeted and more expected.
“It’s something that we’re going to be trying to correct for quite a period of time,” said Cape & Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe.