Absent significant additional reforms, Massachusetts
will face another drug lab scandal of the proportions experienced when the
criminal misconduct of state chemist Annie Dookhan came to light in July of
2012. So concludes the Boston Bar Association in the newly released report
of its Task Force on the Drug Lab Crisis.
"The integrity of forensic
evidence is vital to the fair administration of justice," said Boston Bar
Association President Paul T. Dacier. "Without constant vigilance and frequent,
independent auditing, Massachusetts runs the risk of undermining public trust
and confidence in the credibility of our criminal justice system."
BBA Task Force, chaired by former federal prosecutor and criminal defense
attorney Michael Ricciuti, makes three key recommendations:
that prosecutors, defense counsel, judges and policy makers continue the
extraordinary joint efforts that were mounted in the aftermath of the Dookhan
misconduct to promptly resolve open criminal cases related to Dookhan's
- Second, that the Commonwealth further enhance the
auditing and oversight of drug labs and consider similar steps regarding all
forensic services; and
- Third, that the Governor and Legislature
review funding levels for forensic services to ensure these services are
adequately funded and staffed and that effective auditing and oversight is
The BBA Task Force began its work in the fall of 2012,
following allegations that Department of Public Health lab chemist Annie Dookhan
had engaged in criminal misconduct regarding drug evidence seized in connection
with thousands of Massachusetts state and federal criminal cases. The Task Force
reviewed the facts regarding this matter, dubbed the Lab Crisis, to identify any
lessons to be learned, and propose recommendations for change.
BBA Task Force began its work at the time Governor Patrick appointed attorney
David Meier to investigate and identify individuals potentially affected by
Dookhan's misconduct, and issued its own report at the time the state Inspector
General released its report regarding the crisis.
"As laudable as many of the
steps taken to improve forensic services over the past several years have been,
they have not fully addressed the larger issues we have identified," said
Ricciuti. "In addition to Ms. Dookhan, two other lab chemists were also charged
with wrongdoing. These allegations undermine the integrity of evidence used in
criminal cases. We must ensure the enactment of the steps we recommend to ensure
only truthful, valid information is used as evidence in criminal prosecutions in
Massachusetts -- a goal the BBA has long championed and which was the subject of
the report of the BBA Task Force on Wrongful Convictions, 'Getting
it Right,' issued in 2009."