Senate Republicans today announced a bill to detect and prevent the mishandling
of forensic evidence in the state’s crime laboratory. The bill, written in
the wake of more than 21,000 dismissed drug convictions connected to former state
chemist Annie Dookhan, will safeguard the accuracy and integrity of lab
procedures and results.
justice system was compromised because a so-called scientist with falsified
credentials lied about her work for years. We all want to make certain
that those responsible for maintaining the integrity of criminal evidence have
proper oversight,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R–
Gloucester). “Accountability and accuracy are essential in every
aspect of government and we know that many people were falsely convicted of
crimes and others who may have been guilty were let free. We aim to
empower state officials with the authority to conduct audits and reviews of the
crime lab so that this doesn’t happen again.”
state’s Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled that cases tainted by Dookhan
would be dismissed or re-prosecuted. The discredited chemist
falsified her academic credentials and admitted in court to intentionally
contaminating evidence in an effort to rack up higher lab results, she was
convicted of 27 charges in 2013 including for perjury, obstruction of justice, and altering evidence.
court’s action would require prosecutors to show that they could secure
convictions in retrials without using evidence handled or contaminated by
Dookhan. The court’s action comes too late for some who were sentenced
because they have already served out their prison terms.
Dookhan’s mishandling of criminal lab evidence was a travesty.
Investigations into her actions and her conviction brought to light
serious gaps in the management and oversight within the crime lab,” said
Senator Ross (R-Wrentham), ranking Republican member of the Judiciary
Committee. “A thoroughly conducted triennial review of procedures used in crime
labs is necessary to take preventative measures against misconduct and abuse of
the justice system.”
15-month investigation by Inspector
General Glenn Gunha which concluded in a
2014 report found that lax lab management failed to detect the actions of
Dookan. The report identified important reforms which have been
undertaken such as requiring crime lab facilities to meet national
the issues of evidence tainting have been identified, the State Police have
assumed control of the labs and they have worked effectively to reform the way
the labs operate,” said Tarr. “The work of they are doing is commendable,
and it needs to be supported with every tool available. Audits have been proven
to be effective tools, and we should make sure they are done regularly because
the consequences of evidence tainting are just too negative for the integrity
of our criminal justice system.”
of the bill propose requiring the Executive Office of Public Safety’s Forensic
Sciences Advisory Board to initiate a comprehensive audit of all laboratories
providing forensic service for the state by September 1st of this
year. The state Inspector General, in collaboration with the state
Auditor, would be directed to initiate such an audit to ensure the accuracy and
integrity of lab work every three years.
Forensic Sciences Advisory Board is comprised of representatives from the
District Attorneys Association, Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, the
Commissioner of Public Health, the Massachusetts Organization of State
Engineers and Scientists, members of bar associations, and others with
expertise in forensic and biological sciences.
expect the bill to gain bipartisan and bicameral support as it moves through
the legislative process.