You’ve all heard by now of the huge scandal in Massachusetts that’s going to cost us taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. No, it’s not paying the victims of Whitey or those who were imprisoned in the FBI’s scandal with Joe “The Animal” Barboza. It’s about the money we will soon owe to the criminals of Massachusetts because if press reports are to be believed a person named Annie Dookham aka Annie Awful, a chemist at the state drug laboratory was corrupt. She worked there nine years and apparently did whatever she felt like doing but it wasn’t what she should have done.
We are told she acted intentionally to change negative drug samples into positives, increased the weight of samples (the more weight the greater the penalty) and generally corrupted the process to such an extent her actions have now called into question the convictions in about 34,000 criminal cases.
What does all this mean — simply that Annie Awful’s analysis in each of the 34,000 cases is deemed untrustworthy and cannot be relied upon. Each case must be reviewed as if there was no drug analysis done. Whatever was seized from a defendant that was analyzed by Annie Awful cannot be admitted into evidence since the state has admitted her actions were wrongful and unreliable.
This is not a “chain of custody” case as some suggest. It is a case with tainted evidence that is not admissible. It is not up to the defendant to prove that Awful Annie did something to their analysis since that is impossible. The state has admitted that every analysis done by her is in doubt. Simply put every conviction based on Annie Awful’s analysis must be thrown out. Even if samples are still extant that Annie Awful sent back, they also are untrustworthy and cannot be used. If a person was convicted of a crimes unrelated to the drugs then that the person will be not be acquitted but all those only convicted of drug offenses will be set free.
There is little solace for the public. Every conviction produces a consequence: jail, deportation, loss of job opportunity, probation, loss of reputation, etc. You get the idea. We will have a legion of people, many who should be in prison, who will sue the Commonwealth and the various police departments for the supposed injury they suffered when they were wrongfully convicted.
Annie Awful’s abhorrent actions have unleashed a plethora of civil suits. Not only will these acquitted criminals recover substantial sums but, as we’ve seen with Reassigned Michelle, the people, us tax payers, will be ordered to pick up the costs of their lawyers. There are a lot of smiling defense lawyers walking around town planning to head off to their favorite vacation spot and put a deposit down on that water edge home they always wanted.
Annie Awful worked for the Department of Public Health. Here is its organization chart. At the top is the commissioner John Auerbach. Under him are ten divisions, each one headed by a division head, seven are women and three are men. Under each of these division heads, there are a many sub-divisions each one with a boss.
The boss of the division Annie Awful worked in was Linda Han, she has resigned. Under her the director of analytic chemistry Julie Nassif was fired. There are other people who supervised Annie Awful and worked with her who apparently did not perform well. They will all be tainted by the scandal as is the whole operation of the state lab. Aside from the 60,000 tests done by Awful Annie, what guarantee do we have that tests done by others in such a corrosive atmosphere are not likewise tainted. What guarantee do we have that others working in the Department of Health are on the level.
I initially thought that the rarest of things happened when I learned that Commissioner, John Auerbach, took responsibility for the failures in the drug laboratory and resigned. Auerbach said “What happened at the drug lab was unacceptable and the impact on people across the state may be devastating, particularly for some within the criminal justice system.” What tempered my praise of Auerbach was that he already had a job to go to when he resigned. Now that is strange. Why was Auerbach job shopping while all this was happening? We have to know who knew what and when.
An even more bothersome thing is that Awful Annie may have changed positive findings to negatives to help criminals get off. We must attempt to find out if Awful Annie was improperly influenced by money or politics or friendship or otherwise to clear people. If Annie Awful could do this, how do we trust anything that has happened in our criminal justice system.
This matter cannot remain in the hands of the politicians or the police. It cannot be swept under the rug. The overall cost could exceed a billion dollars (If only 10,000 now wrongfully convicted get $100,00 settlement.) And that’s not counting the costs of releasing so many formerly convicted drug dealers to the street. Governor Patrick should immediately set up an independent commission made up of retired judges with subpoena powers who will hold public hearings to get to the bottom of this. This is truly an unmitigated disaster.