Defendants May Appeal Massachusetts Drug Convictions Following Discovery that Crime Lab Chemist May Have Mishandled Evidence

An investigation that recently led to the closure of a Massachusetts crime lab could have some defendants who were convicted of drug crimes filing their appeals. The lab, which is located in Jamaica Plain, was shut down after state police discovered that chemist Annie Dookhan did not follow testing protocols and may have improperly handled drug samples. At this time, state authorities are not sure how many of these samples were tainted. However, in the wake of these recent revelations, Department of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach, has announced his resignation.

The Boston Globe reports that Dookhan was involved in the testing of over 50,000 drug samples related to about 34,000 defendants from 2003 to 2012. One of the cases linked to Dookhan is the 2010 Suffolk County drug investigation that led to the conviction of Larry Blue for weapons and cocaine traffic offenses involving 14 to 28 grams and the sale of narcotics within 1,000 feet of a school.

During Blue’s trial, Dookhan testified that she was in charge of “quality control/quality assurance” at the drug lab, which included ensuring that balances were in proper effect, policies and procedures were being abided by, and all machines were working correctly. Looking back at this testimony, some Massachusetts criminal defense lawyers are now asking whether even the samples that other chemists at the lab handled may have also been contaminated. (Dookhan also mentioned that she conducted 30 to 50 preliminary tests a day, and, along with three other chemists, performed confirmatory tests on drug samples that had already gone through initial testing.)

Such speculation is raising concerns that there might have been other problems with the way the crime lab was run. (The Massachusetts Department of Public Health was in charge of the lab until police took over in July.) For example, reports that a backlog in work may have hurt testing quality and delayed some criminal cases. In 2007, overtime was reduced by 50% even though there was a backlog of 8,000 samples. By 2011, turnaround time was taking about 140 days/sample. Compare that to in 2004 when the turnaround time per sample was approximately 30 days.

Lawyers expect appeals in Mass. crime lab case,, September 13, 2012

Team 5 Investigates: Massachusetts drug lab in chaos, WCVB, September 15, 2012

DPH chief Auerbach resigns over lab scandal, lands new job, Boston Herald, September 17, 2012

More Blog Posts:

False convictions and improper sentencing almost certain after lab debacle, Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog, August 31, 2012
Boston Police department assists with arresting international drug traffickers, Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog, September 5, 2012

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Drug trafficking is the most serious drug crime in Massachusetts and it can come with very stiff penalties. If your conviction was obtained because of evidence that was tampered with or illegally obtained you may be able to appeal your case. Contact our Boston drug trafficking law firm today.

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