State Drug Lab Chemist Indicted in Connection with Tampering with Evidence, Obstruction of Justice
BOSTON – A former chemist at the Hinton State Laboratory Institute was indicted today on 27 charges in connection with altering drug evidence during the testing process and obstructing justice, Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office announced today.
Annie Dookhan, 35, of Franklin, was indicted today by a Statewide Grand Jury on charges of Obstruction of Justice (17 counts), Tampering with Evidence (8 counts), Perjury, and Falsely Pretending to Hold a Degree from a College or University.
Dookhan will be arraigned on December 20 in Suffolk Superior Court. The investigation remains ongoing.
“We allege that Annie Dookhan tampered with drug evidence and fabricated test results on multiple occasions,” AG Coakley said. “Her alleged actions have sent ripple effects throughout the criminal justice system. We are committed to working with all stakeholders to fix this situation and restore trust in the criminal justice system.”
In July, the AG’s Office began a criminal investigation into the matter after there were allegations of impropriety at the Hinton State Laboratory. Dookhan was employed as a chemist in the drug analysis unit of the Hinton State Lab in Jamaica Plain, which tested drug evidence submitted by law enforcement across the state. In her capacity as a chemist, Dookhan would analyze drug evidence and at times testify in court as to her findings.
The investigation revealed that Dookhan allegedly tampered with evidence by altering the substances in the vials that were being tested at the lab in order to cover-up her alleged practice of routinely “dry labbing” samples. “Dry labbing” is the term used for the practice of merely visually identifying samples instead of performing the required chemical test. Authorities allege that Dookhan would assemble multiple drug samples from different cases that appeared to be the same substance. She would then allegedly perform the chemical tests on a few of the samples to verify that the samples were in fact the drug she believed they were, and if those were positive, would assume all the samples were positive without performing the necessary chemical tests.
Typically, the drug samples are then sent to a second testing stage to confirm the initial results. If the second test does not confirm the initial results, the vial is sent back to the primary chemist to concentrate and resubmit. Authorities allege that when samples were sent back to Dookhan in this stage, she tampered with the vials before resubmitting them in order to make them consistent with the inaccurate and positive results reached as a result of her “dry labbing.” Recent testing done on these samples by the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory corroborates these allegations. Investigators were able to retest samples because Dookhan only altered the substances while they were in the testing vials. She did not alter the original samples.
Authorities further allege that Dookhan obstructed justice by falsely certifying drug analyses, or causing others to do so, when she knew the results were compromised as a result of her “dry labbing” and tampering with evidence vials. These drug certifications were submitted in court proceedings as evidence and were relied upon by prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Authorities allege that Dookhan obstructed justice and committed perjury by falsely claiming during proceedings that she held a Master’s in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts. Dookhan testified as an expert witness under oath during legal proceedings and that testimony was relied upon to establish a foundation for her credibility as a drug chemist. Further investigation revealed that she did not hold a master’s from the University of Massachusetts nor was she ever enrolled as a student in master’s level classes.
Authorities also allege that on another occasion Dookhan did not follow proper protocol for signing out drug samples from the evidence room, and further tampered with evidence by forging the initials of an evidence officer to cover-up her misconduct.
Dookhan was arrested on September 28 by Massachusetts State Police assigned to the AG’s Office on September 28 and subsequently arraigned in Boston Municipal Court, where she entered a plea of not guilty and was released on $10,000 cash bail with conditions. She was indicted today by a Statewide Grand Jury. She is due back in Suffolk Superior Court on December 20 for arraignment.
These charges are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Anne Kaczmarek of AG Coakley’s Enterprise and Major Crimes Division and Assistant Attorney General John Verner, Chief of AG Coakley’s Criminal Bureau. It is being investigated by Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Attorney General’s Office.