massachusetts drug lab

AP File Photo

BOSTON (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts is asking the state's highest court to get involved in a state drug lab scandal that threatens to derail thousands of criminal cases.

The ACLU is asking the Supreme Judicial Court to find that all defendants whose cases were handled by former state chemist Annie Dookhan have a presumptive right to have their sentences put on hold while motions for new trials are pending.

Dookhan is accused of faking test results and tampering with evidence.

AP File Photo

BOSTON (AP) — Thirteen employees of a now-closed Massachusetts drug lab are receiving full salaries and benefits even though they have been unable to work as an investigation into the actions of one of their fellow chemists continues.

The investigation which shuttered the lab has focused on chemist Annie Dookhan. Investigators accuse Dookhan of fabricating drug test results and tampering with evidence while testing samples.

AP File Photo

BOSTON (AP) — Republican lawmakers are calling for creation of a new state board to oversee forensic services facilities after a former chemist was accused of tampering with drug evidence at a state lab.

The proposal announced on Wednesday by the four GOP members of the state Senate would create a five-member oversight panel consisting of the secretary of public safety, the attorney general, the state inspector general, the head of the state police and one gubernatorial appointee.

Ex-Mass. chemist arraigned in drug lab case

Jan 9, 2013
Horia Varlan / Flickr

WOBURN, Mass. (AP) — A former Massachusetts chemist accused of faking test results at a state drug lab has pleaded not guilty to three counts of obstruction of justice at the first of two scheduled arraignments.

Neither Annie Dookhan nor her lawyer commented after her appearance Wednesday in Middlesex Superior Court.

She is scheduled to be arraigned on two more counts of the same charge later Wednesday in Norfolk Superior Court in Dedham.

She had previously pleaded not guilty to similar charges in Suffolk Superior Court, where she was freed on $10,000 bail.

Republicans in the state Legislature in Massachusetts are calling for the departure of JudyAnn Bigby, the state's health and human services secretary.

In a letter sent on Thursday to Gov. Deval Patrick, House Republicans cited "poor management" in the aftermath of two recent crises: The alleged tampering with drug tests at a former Department of Public Health lab, and a deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to a Framingham compounding pharmacy that was regulated by the state.

Nearly 200 people have been released from prison and their cases put on hold as a result of a Massachusetts state drug testing lab scandal. 

Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan told lawmakers at a public hearing Wednesday that while investigators are looking at about 34,000 cases overall, 195 individuals have been released, 79 in Boston.

Heffernan said their release doesn't mean they have been exonerated.

Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby said the lack of national accreditation at the lab was one factor that contributed to its troubles.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has ordered a "file by file review" of every case handled by a state chemist accused of faking test results at a now-closed government lab. 

Annie Dookhan allegedly skirted protocols and manipulated drug samples at a former Department of Health drug lab where she worked for nine years. The alleged misconduct has threatened to unravel thousands of criminal cases.

The Governor of Massachusetts is seeking $30 million to cover the initial costs resulting from the testing scandal at a state drug lab. 

The governor's top budget official, Secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez, said an appropriations bill would be filed with the Legislature on Thursday requesting the money.

Gonzalez says he expects the $30 million to cover costs for at least the next several months for courts, prosecutors, public defenders and other agencies that are dealing with the fallout from the drug lab crisis.

Authorities say a career criminal whose bail on drug charges was reduced because of allegations of mishandling of drug samples by a Massachusetts chemist has failed to show up for court and is now a fugitive.

Marcus Pixley's bail was originally $5,000 cash after he was charged with possession and intent to distribute crack cocaine.

His bail was reduced to $1,000 because the drugs were tested by Annie Dookhan, a state chemist charged in a scandal that has potentially put thousands of drug cases in jeopardy.