SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 5, 2013

Ex-Mass. chemist Dookhan pleads not guilty in Salem court

BRIDGET MURPHY
Associated Press

---- — SALEM — A chemist who used to testify for prosecutors stood up in the sixth Massachusetts courthouse yesterday and again pleaded her innocence in connection with a state drug lab scandal.

Annie Dookhan’s plea in Essex Superior Court on a charge of misleading the grand jury, prosecutor and judge marked the end of her half-dozen arraignments following a 27-count indictment.

Authorities have accused her of wrongdoing that includes fabricating drug test results and tampering with evidence while testing samples. They also say she lied about having a master’s degree in chemistry while testifying as an expert witness during drug prosecutions.

According to a previous Salem News report, the Essex County charge stems from one case, that of Raymond Garcia, who was arrested in Haverhill in 2006 and convicted two years ago of cocaine trafficking based on Dookhan’s testimony.

The 35-year-old Franklin woman remained free yesterday on her prior bail of $10,000 after an assistant attorney general didn’t ask a judge in Salem for any changes.

Dookhan and her attorney declined to comment outside the courtroom. She is due back in court Friday for a pre-trial conference in Middlesex County.

The scandal threatens to unravel thousands of drug convictions. Judges have released about 200 drug defendants from custody and put their cases on hold while legal challenges go through the courts. Authorities say some have committed new crimes in the meantime.

State police closed the Boston lab in August after taking over the facility and learning about the depths of Dookhan’s alleged misdeeds. She resigned months earlier during a state Department of Public Health internal investigation.

Authorities say Dookhan tested more than 60,000 samples involving 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the lab.

She allegedly told police she sometimes contaminated a sample with a known narcotic if it tested negative for drugs, and other times would label a sample positive without testing it.