MA Drug Analyst’s “Dry-Labbing” Helps Endanger 34,000 Cases


A 100-page State Police report obtained by the Boston Globe illustrates many ways state crime lab analyst Annie Dookhan was able to circumvent safeguards intended to ensure that drug evidence was properly handled and analyzed in a now-closed lab. Forensics specialists say the lab's procedures appear to have been fairly standard, including having two chemists test every sample, but they were not enough to prevent an ambitious chemist's rampant breaches of lab protocol, apparently to boost her performance record.

In the process, investigators say, Dookhan has jeopardized the reliability of drug evidence used in 34,000 cases during her nine-year career. The chemist, 34, was arrested Friday and charged with two counts of obstruction of justice and one of falsifying her academic record. Dookhan was “dry-labbing” her screening tests. Put simply, she was skipping a critical first step, according to her admission to investigators, and instead often made a preliminary identification of drugs simply by how they looked and by the type of suspected drug that was checked off on a control card that accompanied the sample.

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