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September 12, 2012

Gov. Patrick: Prompt action needed on closed crime lab for sake of jailed defendants


Patrick said that a backlog of 13,000 samples from the DPH lab referred to in the DAs’ letter have not been put on hold, and Secretary of Public Safety and Security Mary Beth Heffernan “has made arrangements to process these samples. The State Police Lab in Sudbury will handle future testing.”

O’Keefe said that the DPH lab in Jamaica Plain was used by prosecutors throughout eastern Massachusetts, and his office’s own attempts to detail the extent that jeopardized evidence was used in prosecutions has been time consuming, with one attorney spending all day every day on the project. In the letter, prosecutors also raised concerns about the cost of unraveling the problem.

“I am committed to working with you and the Legislature to obtain the necessary resources,” Patrick wrote, advising the state prosecutors to “agree on a course of corrective action” and then “seek whatever supplemental funding may be needed.”

Patrick on Monday said the crime lab problems were “very serious.” Asked about the costs of unraveling the problems and addressing them, Patrick said resources would “come from wherever it needs to come from . . . The important thing is to get it done and to get it done right.”

While the task is large, the prosecutors wrote that they are determined to create a full catalogue of the actions that allowed for such apparently extensive breaches of protocol.

“The injustices that have occurred cannot be corrected without a complete report detailing the precise nature and extent of the violations of protocol, procedure and supervision at the DPH laboratory,” the prosecutors wrote.

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