1,100 Mass. inmates' cases might be tainted by lab
BOSTON (AP) — More than 1,100 defendants are now serving prison sentences based at least in part on drug tests by a chemist accused of failing to follow protocols and deliberately mishandling samples in a now-closed state drug lab, officials said Monday.
That figure was released by David Meier, a defense attorney and former prosecutor appointed to help sort through the legal quagmire created by the lab scandal. Officials say chemist Annie Dookhan was involved in testing more than 60,000 drug samples involving about 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the Boston lab. Dookhan resigned in March during an internal investigation by the state Department of Public Health, which ran the lab until state police took over on July 1 as part of a budget directive.
Meier said he met with a group of district attorneys, defense attorneys and public safety officials on Monday and turned over a list of 690 people serving sentences in state prisons and 450 serving sentences in county jails.
Meier said it is unclear how many of those samples might have been tainted. But he said it's up to the lawyers to bring those cases before a judge.
"That is our first priority, people who are presently incarcerated," he said.
The list turned over Monday do not include thousands of people who are awaiting trial, are on probation or are serving federal sentences in cases in which Dookhan tested drug samples.
Dookhan hasn't been charged, but the state attorney general's office is conducting a criminal investigation.
Dookhan hasn't responded to repeated requests for comment. But her father, Rasheed Khan, told The Associated Press that she had been "bullied and abused," but he would not say by whom.
"No one has heard her side of the story," Khan said outside his home in Kissimmee, Fla., on Saturday.
Since the lab was closed last month, judges in Suffolk and Norfolk counties have begun hearing motions filed by defense attorneys seeking bail reductions for drug defendants awaiting trial in cases handled by Dookhan. Prosecutors have agreed to many of the motions, citing possibly tainted evidence.
Also on Monday, a judge in Boston agreed to put the sentences of career criminal David Huffman on hold and set bail for him at $75,000 cash, with GPS monitoring. The 55-year-old Huffman had pleaded guilty in August to trafficking in heroin and cocaine, possession of oxycodone with the intent to distribute and unlawful possession of ammunition and a firearm as an armed career criminal
He began serving concurrent seven- to 10-year sentences last month.
Huffman's lawyer, Bernard Grossberg, said the next step will likely be for the defense to ask that his client be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea.
"He would not have pleaded guilty to the gun charges if it was not part and parcel of his plea on the drug charges," Grossberg said.
Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney, said prosecutors opposed the motion to put his sentence on the gun charges on hold. He said the gun evidence was tested in a different lab and was unaffected by the drug lab scandal.
"This is an individual who's been involved in just about every type of property and violent crime over the course of 40 years," Wark said. "We believe the judge should have treated the two cases separately."
Associated Press writer Mike Schneider contributed from Kissimmee, Fla.