State’s Chemist Admits “Testing” Drug Samples by Looking at Them [Updated]

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"I intentionally turned a negative [test result] into a positive a few times," said the woman at the center of a state drug lab scandal in Massachusetts. The actual number is probably somewhere between "a few" and 34,000, which is the number of criminal cases she worked on during nine years at the lab.

Police say Annie Dookhan tested more than 60,000 samples in those 34,000 cases, and now well over a thousand convictions have been called into question because she has admitted faking many of the results. According to a recent report, Dookhan "admitted identifying drug samples by looking at them instead of testing them," a practice the report called "dry labbing." (The fact that there's apparently already a name for this practice is pretty creepy.)

As so often happens, some people did raise concerns about her work but it took years to finally uncover the truth. One thing people noticed was the sheer number of tests she was completing, which was sometimes two or three times as many as others did. You could also look at it this way: 60,000 tests in nine years is an average of 18.3 tests per day, every day, assuming she was working 365 days a year. That seems awfully suspicious, but I'm no chemist.

Actually, she may not be, either. She does have a B.A. in chemistry, which could be enough, but apparently lied on her resumé and on the witness stand by claiming to have a master's degree. A state official was quoted as saying that her job did not require a master's degree, and I guess it doesn't if all you're doing is looking at the samples.

The state has reportedly identified at least 1,141 people who are in prison based on Dookhan's actions. Seems likely there will be at least one more, namely her, but she has not yet been charged.

Update: According to this report, Dookhan was arrested on Friday and charged with two counts of obstructing justice. Probably a few more charges to come.