Seven years after a disgraced former Massachusetts state chemist pleaded guilty to mishandling drug samples, the reverberations of the case still are being felt. Hundreds of people have been released from custody since the revelation of wrongdoing by chemist Annie Dookhan. In 2017, more than 20,000 cases affected by her misconduct were found to be eligible for dismissal. This week the district attorney in Boston moved to vacate 108 more convictions, reports the New York Times. District Attorney Rachael Rollins filed a motion to dismiss cases that involved Dookhan but that district attorneys did not move to throw out in 2017, when a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling asked prosecutors to certify that they could produce evidence at a retrial independent of Ms. Dookhan’s signed drug certificate or testimony. Rollins said the move was meant to “remove a huge stain on the legal system,” calling the cases “forever tainted by egregious and reprehensible government misconduct.”
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, she said, “it makes little sense to expend additional resources litigating Dookhan cases, some of which are more than 15 years old.” Dookhan pleaded guilty in 2013 to 27 counts, including perjury, obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence. She was sentenced to three to five years in prison. Prosecutors said that during her nine-year tenure at a drug lab in Boston, where she was responsible for processing drug samples seized from suspects, Dookhan mishandled samples, forged signatures and returned positive results on drugs she had never tested.