Skip to comments.Annie Dookhan’s Falsified Lab Data: Symptom of a Corrupted System
Posted on 12/09/2013 4:40:06 AM PST by Kaslin
Friday, former Massachusetts chemist Annie Dookhan pleaded guilty to all 27 counts of falsifying nearly 40,000 criminal drug cases, effectively upending the Massachusetts criminal justice system. Dookhan admitted to filing false test results, mixing drug samples together, and lying under oath about her job qualifications. She claimed that she committed her crimes to boost her job performance and was sentenced on Friday to three to five years in prison, plus probation.
Though many of the stories reporting Dookhans conviction focus on her alone, problems extend beyond one ambitious chemist. Dookhans dry labbing is just one part of a structure that incentivizes people working in the criminal justice system to get convictionsnot truthand put as many people in prison as possible without regard to their actual guilt.
In Massachusetts, Attorney General Martha Coakley, who heads the office prosecuting Dookhans case, said that Dookhans conviction was only one part of a greater investigation into the entire Hinton drug lab where Dookhan worked. According to the Boston Globe, state police also fired a drug analyst from the same lab for allegedly falsely claiming in court that she possessed a Bachelors in chemistry.
The corruption does not seem to have stayed within the lab. When Dookhan was convicted, her emails revealed close ties to prosecutors in the state, including Norfolk Assistant District Attorney George Papachristos, who resigned when the emails were released revealing a flirtatious friendship. Dookhan regularly performed favors for prosecutors, even asking them if she should respond to defense attorneys requests for information. One email chain suggests that prosecutors in touch with Dookhan knew they were getting falsified results but pressed forward anyway.
As egregious as the problems appear to be in Massachusetts, the state is not at all an isolated incident of prosecutorial corruption. In Texas, for example, a prosecutor recently achieved a rare thing: He was recently sentenced to jail for knowingly convicting an innocent man.
Research shows that the problem reaches far beyond a few states. According to a study published last year in Criminal Justice Ethics, the American system by and large perverts the incentives of the people working in it, such that everyone, from police, to prosecutors, and, apparently, even the lab scientists, are more motivated to get a guilty verdict rather than to ascertain real guilt or innocence.
Forensics labs, the study says, are funded, in part, per conviction. Not per correct rulings, but per conviction. For example, as of 2012, North Carolina paid $600 for the services of the crime lab per conviction. At least 13 other states have similar schemes in place.
Being paid by the state to get convictions isnt the only way the design breeds corruption. According to a 2010 report, many state laws are actually written in such a way that law enforcement can directly profit off of property seized by those even suspected of committing a crime. Much of the time, this crime is simple drug possession. Only eight states have laws that bar the use of forfeiture proceeds for the benefit of the department. According to the report, In the other 42 states, at least 50 percent goes to law enforcement, and in 26 states, it is 100 percent. Massachusetts is one of those states that receives 100%.
Perhaps some of that can be put to good use since the rightful owners will never see it again: The state has already spent $8.5 million cleaning up Dookhans mess with another $8.6 million to be used in the current fiscal year.
Given that Massachusetts rewards its police for seizing property and that state crime labs are funded per conviction, is it really such a wonder that Annie Dookhan did what she could to ensure that her lab got as many convictions as possible?
When Dookhan pleaded guilty, Attorney General Martha Coakley said, Certainly one of the victims in this case, and the actions of Annie Dookhan, is the public trust. Indeed, the publics trust has been broken, but not by Dookhan herself. Rather, it has been soiled by the criminal justice system that aligns everything in such a way that the most rational thing for Dookhan to do her own self interest was to put innocent people behind bars.
What we have here is not a case of one woman attempting to meet her own wild ambitions. What Americans have is a system that is designed, whether intentionally or not, to get as many people thrown in jail as possible. It is a system that is broken, and it is a system that desperately needs to be revisited. And its not just Massachusetts problem.
This chic needs to spend the rest of her life in jail and doing “jobs” that would go to pay for all the new trials that will come of this. Sje must be an obama supporter/voter to have gotten off so lightly.
“Forensics labs, the study says, are funded, in part, per conviction...”
I worked for many years as a forensic chemist....and that’s nuts!! In fact, the lab where I worked would have considered that arangement to be unethical. I know because I once accepted a job along similar lines and the staff had a debate about it. I was instructed in no uncertain terms that payment must never depend on results.
Perhaps its not everyplace but its certainly more then just this one case.
I hope the Bxxxx gets to room with someone falsely convicted.
I’ve often said that I would never want to testify as an “expert witness” in any court proceeding, because I know going in that one side is lying to win their case. There is no way I will lie and use my standing as an expert to support the lie.
What Dookhan did is far worse than simply telling the story that the defense or prosecuting attorneys want told.
I saw that...and it’s still nuts! I would not want to testify in a case where the defense attorney can ask “Is it true that you only get paid if my client is convicted?”
(Some assembly required.)
She won’t. They will all be released back on the citizenry.
Corruption? Why not? PC itself is enforced mental and moral corruption. Once there is a place in a persons mind where untruth is truth ANYTHING becomes possible.
Despite her looks, GUILTY!
> Ive often said that I would never want to testify as an expert witness in any court proceeding, because I know going in that one side is lying to win their case. There is no way I will lie and use my standing as an expert to support the lie.
Anyone that’s an expert knows there’s no such thing as an “expert” just someone who’s been at it a long time. Being called an expert implies that they are infallible which they are not.
Definitely a liberal...
There is the nexus of the problem. Many cops are enabled by same.
As if some exhaustive study by panels of experts is needed to apprehend the reasons.
Don't worry. At least in many jurisdictions, if you're actually expert at something, it's unlikely that you'll be called as an “expert witness.”
I'm aware of a case where the question is over the valuation of the intellectual property inherent in a piece of proprietary enterprise-level software and accompanying proprietary network hardware. The plaintiff's attorneys have proposed an expert witness who has run IT businesses since the 1980s, has developed and written software, has worked as a certified network engineer, and currently manages a staff of IT professionals.
The defense's argument to forbid the witness is that he's never qualified to be an expert witness in court before.
The defense's “expert witness” is a fellow who professionally serves as an IT expert witness. His primary living is made from selling insurance. He also salvages hardware, including IT hardware. But he's been “qualified” by courts previously as an IT expert witness, and thus, is automatically accepted as such.
She’s a representative sample of what happens when you incentivize incorrectly. The entire criminal justice system needs a revamp. End sovereign immunity, end civil forfeiture and recalibrate the “war” on drugs if you want to return to Constitutional liberties.
That would be a major injustice.
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