Fallout from Mass. crime lab mishandling reaches the top

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September 17, 2012, 5:46 pm
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(NECN: Julie Loncich) - The fallout from the alleged mishandled, mismanaged Massachusetts state crime lab in Jamaica Plain has now reached the top with the commissioner of the Department of Health, John Auerbach, handing over his resignation to Governor Deval Patrick Monday. Patrick accepted.

In a statement, Auerbach says:
“It is clear that there was insufficient quality monitoring, reporting and investigating on the part of supervisors and managers surrounding the former Department of Public Health drug lab in Jamaica Plain – and ultimately, as Commissioner, the buck stops with me."

Governor Patrick responded:
"The failures at the Department of Public Health drug lab are serious and the actions and inactions of lab management compounded the problem. The Commissioner recognizes that, as the head of DPH, he shares accountability for the breakdown in oversight."

It all stems from the alleged mishandling of state evidence by former chemist Annie Dookhan during her nine years at the lab. The AG's office is still investigating, but it's alleged Dookhan didn't properly sign out samples to be tested, and one defense attorney accuses her of tampering with drugs to create a false positive. An evidence officer first noticed the discrepancy in June of 2011, but Dookhan stayed on with the department until this past spring. State officials say she had access to 34,000 criminal cases, amounting in 60,000 samples, which are now all being called into question.

In an interview, secretary of health and human services JudyAnn Bigby disclosed Commissioner Auerbach had previously accepted a position with Northeastern University and that the timing of the two events is happenstance. Still she admits the state is taking this matter and this investigation seriously.

“We have incredible sense of anger and disappointment that an individual chemist could create so much chaos in the criminal justice system.”

Tags: Governor Deval Patrick , John Auerbach, Julie Loncich, annie dookhan, massachusetts crime lab, commisisoner of department of health
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