Let me take the mommy hat off for a moment, and put on my forensic science hat. If you studied or work in the forensic science field, hearing the name, Annie Dookhan gets your blood boiling. Dookhan was a forensic chemist for the Massachusetts Crime Lab. She disgraced the field when it was discovered that she falsified and mislabeled evidence, as well as not following proper evidence protocol. The speed with which she “tested” evidence was far above the norm, and while this was a gigantic red flag, that was not investigated until an evidence officer realized she had taken almost 100 samples without signing them out.
Once the investigation began, and the reach of Dookhan’s misdeeds realized, the Governor shut down the entire lab. SHUT DOWN THE ENTIRE LAB! Everything had to be investigated. Dookhan, as it turns out, did not even hold a chemistry master’s degree that she claimed to have received. After being interviewed, she admitted to falsifying test results for 2 to 3 years. She admitted to “dry-labbing” which is to eyeball evidence and make a conclusion with zero scientific attempts at verification. She would look at drug evidence and say whether or not there was, say cocaine in the sample. FYI, you cannot do that visually, and even if you could, as a forensic scientist, you USE THE SCIENCE available to you to confirm or deny.
So we have Dookhan, faking test results for years, and many people service prison terms based off of these results. So now what happens? Well, the ACLU stepped in because there is no telling how many people were falsely convicted and sentenced due to Dookhan’s actions. Well today, it is expected that approximately 20,000 cases will be dismissed today by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Let’s say that the majority of the cases, if tested, actually did reveal evidence to support the conviction of the accused. But once there is doubt or misdeed involved in the handling of evidence, it is all circumspect. You cannot go back and run the proper tests on the evidence. Maybe she cross-contaminated the evidence. Once the misdeed has begun, there is no way to determine how far it actually goes. Every single thing she was ever involved with is now suspect.
Every single thing she was ever involved with is now suspect. In 2013, Dookhan was sentenced to 3 to 5 years in prison with an additional two years of probation. She was released from prison in April of 2016. The damage to the integrity of the field of forensic science will be felt for quite a while. Dedicated, hard-working forensic scientists must now live in the shadow of Annie Dookhan’s selfishness and errant ways. Thankfully, there are way more honest, ethical and dedicated forensic scientists working in the field and will no doubt overcome this cloud of doubt.
To all of the people wrongly convicted due to Dookhan’s actions, I am so sorry that the system let you down. How scary it must have been to have been falsely accused and I’m glad your day of reckoning is coming today.
To all of the guilty people who are about to get away with your crimes because of Dookhan’s actions, it won’t happen twice, so count your lucky stars and get your life right. PLEASE!
Annie Dookhan, you’re a disgrace and should be ashamed of yourself. The negative impact you have made far exceeds just the cases you “worked” on. Thanks for nothing.