Patrick: ‘Breakdown In Oversight’ At Mass. Lab
BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick said Monday there would be criminal and civil consequences for what he called an apparent “breakdown in oversight” at a now-closed state police crime lab.
The governor ordered the Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Boston shut down last month after authorities discovered that a chemist had not followed proper protocols in the testing of drug samples, a finding that could result in legal challenges from people convicted of or awaiting trial on drug charges.
The chemist resigned in March during an internal investigation and two supervisors have been suspended. The state attorney general has launched a criminal investigation and Patrick said Monday that an internal review is also ongoing.
“There are going to be consequences,” he said. “There are going to consequences on the civil side, on the criminal side.”
The governor, who returned to the State House on Monday after spending most of last week at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., added that he was limited in what he could say because the probes were still under way.
“Somewhere in this process there was a breakdown in oversight and that needs to be dealt with,” he said.
While state officials have not identified the chemist, a letter sent by a prosecutor to a public defender in Norfolk County identified her as Annie Dookhan. She has not commented publicly, but her husband has said she’s being scapegoated.
Dookhan is believed to have handled more than 50,000 drug samples during her nine years at the lab. State police have said the samples involved about 34,000 criminal defendants.
David Procopio, a state police spokesman, has said the chemist’s actions went beyond sloppiness into possibly deliberate malfeasance.
Patrick said his administration was still working to understand the full scope of the problem, how many drug cases were potentially impacted and to “get a handle on exactly which individuals have been affected and to do right by them.”
The lab was operated by the state Department of Public Health until July 1, when it was transferred to state police under a budget directive. Patrick said Monday that state police raised concerns about the drug tests after applying their own protocols to the lab and brought those concerns to him, prompting his decision to close the lab and distribute its functions among other state police facilities.