SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

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September 26, 2012

Chemist's education questioned in scandal

BOSTON (AP) — A chemist whose alleged mishandling of drug samples has thrown thousands of criminal cases into question testified under oath that she holds a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts, but school officials say they have no record of her receiving an advanced degree or taking graduate courses there.

Defense attorneys say that if Annie Dookhan lied about receiving a master’s degree, it causes even more credibility problems for her work at the lab.

“If, in fact, she falsified her education or qualifications, we are even more deeply concerned about what she might have done in terms of testing the drugs,” said Anne Goldbach, forensics services director for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the state’s public defender agency.

State police say Dookhan tested more than 60,000 drug samples submitted in the cases of about 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the lab. She resigned in March amid an internal investigation by the Department of Public Health. After state police took over the lab in July as part of a state budget directive, they said they discovered her violations were much more extensive than previously believed and went beyond sloppiness into “malfeasance” and “deliberate mishandling” of drug samples.

Dookhan has not responded to repeated requests for comments from The Associated Press. No one appeared to be at her home in Franklin yesterday. Her husband and her father did not respond to requests for comment on her master’s degree claim.

Asked about her educational background when she testified under oath during the 2010 trial of Larry Blue, a Boston man charged with cocaine trafficking and weapons offenses, Dookhan said she had a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a master’s degree in chemistry, both from the University of Massachusetts.

DeWayne Lehman, a spokesman for UMass-Boston, confirmed that Dookhan received a bachelor of science in biochemistry from the school in 2001 but said there is no record of her receiving a master’s degree in chemistry, as she listed on her resume and said in sworn testimony, according to a transcript.

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