A state forensic chemist out of Massachusetts fabricated positive tests, leading to thousands of falsified drug convictions.
Playing with the freedom of others
Annie Dookhan, a state forensic chemist who worked for the state of Massachusetts for several years until her arrest in 2013 admitted that over the course of her employment, she had sent back tens of thousands of drug tests with positive results that had either not been tested or had been falsified to product a positive test. She was convicted of tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, and perjury and served. She has since been released after serving half of her five year sentence while those she helped convict are just now seeing the light of freedom.
More than 21,000 drug convictions in the state of Massachusetts were dismissed following Dookhan’s arrest and those falsely accused were finally released from prison. Unfortunately, many of those falsely imprisoned had already spent several years behind bars prior to Dookhan’s arrest and after while the prosecution worked feverishly to keep as many imprisoned as possible. Although 21,000 individuals are no longer facing drug charges thanks to the high court of Massachusetts, their lives, including personal relationships and employment, may be forever damaged following being falsely imprisoned.
Not a one-time crime
Dookhan isn’t the only state appointed forensic chemist to toy around with the freedom of others by altering test results. A few others include:
• Another Massachusetts forensic chemist named Sonja Farak was prosecuted the same year as Dookhan for stealing drugs from the lab she was employed at and using those drugs while working. Thousands of cases were tainted by the trusted chemist who was working while high.
• Joyce Gilchrist was another forensic chemist out of Oklahoma who, like Dookhan, tampered with evidence leading to false positive DNA test results.
• Kamalkant Shan, a lab tech who was released from his job at the State of New Jersey Police Laboratory in 2016 was caught officially recording that drugs had been tested when they hadn’t.
• In 2016 a forensic chemist working for the Utah Department of Public Safety was arrested for sexual crimes against children. Although none of his crimes occurred at his place of employment, it could show him unreliable to produce honest work, leaving many cases to be questioned.
The above names are just a few of several state employed workers who, of their own accord, may have had a hand in placing innocent persons behind bars.
Incentive for state forensic chemists
Although no one is exactly sure why state forensic chemists such as Dookhan tampered with evidence, the incentive could be nothing more than exceeding their quota. Dookhan was seen as an exceptional employee by returning three times the amount of drug tests than other chemists do on average. While Dookhan wasn’t reward monetarily beyond her annual six-figure income, the fame and acknowledgement from coworkers and supervisors may have been enough to drive her to over-succeed. Another possible reason for falsifying test results could be pure laziness. Performing the same tests, day in and day out may get repetitive and tedious. Perhaps those who chose to “dry-lab”, or produce test results without performing a tests, failed to perceive a major concern to cut corners on testing as the tests appeared insignificant to ensure a guilty verdict. For whatever reason, forensic chemists should be upheld to a higher standard since they are partly responsible for the freedom or imprisonment of others. In order to ensure that, laboratories that are funded by federal or state governments should be properly accredited.
Don’t rely on drug tests
Many of those convicted ended up admitting guilt after having their test results come back positive. When faced with what should be hard evidence, the wisest choice may appear to plead guilty and take a plea deal if possible. This is a decision that is best dealt with while being supported by an experienced criminal defense attorney.