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Boston and Beyond

September 27, 2012

Chemist at center of drug lab case told police she 'messed up bad'

BOSTON — The former state chemist accused of jeopardizing thousands of convictions by tampering with drug evidence admitted to investigators that for two or three years she cut corners at the now shuttered state drug lab by recording false positives and “a few times” adding known drugs to samples to produce the desired result, according to a copy of a State Police report obtained by the News Service.

In an interview with detectives, chemist Annie Dookhan confessed to improperly removing drug samples from evidence storage, forging her colleagues’ signatures on log books, and intentionally turning negative tests into positive by adding drugs.

The only explanation Dookhan gave investigators for her action was that she wanted to “get more work done,” though she did not suggest she was under any pressure to improve her productivity and state officials have said Dookhan’s workload far exceeded that of any of her colleagues at the lab.

“I screwed up big time. I messed up. I messed up bad. It’s my fault. I don’t want the lab to get in trouble,” Dookhan told investigators with a tear in her eye, according to the report. She also signed a statement admitting to her actions.

In follow-up conversations with police who advised Dookhan to get an attorney, the mother of one young son said she was worried about affording counsel, was going through a “long divorce” and never meant to hurt anybody. One former lab supervisor speculated to police that she may have had a “mental breakdown.”

The insight into the state’s case against Dookhan comes as state officials are attempting to unravel the widespread implications of her actions, which have the potential to compromise as many as 34,000 cases handled by Dookhan since 2003. She told police she did not know how many samples she improperly tested.

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