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State drug lab inquiry explores links to chemist

State court sets special sessions

The state drug lab scandal, originally believed to be limited to Eastern Massachusetts, has grown into a statewide investigation, as possible indirect connections between former state chemist Annie Dookhan and prosecutions in Western Massachusetts are explored.

As part of the inquiry into Dookhan’s actions, led by Boston attorney David E. Meier, all district attorneys have been provided with a list of defendants whose cases may have been affected by Dookhan’s alleged altering of drug tests while she worked at a Jamaica Plain lab.

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“They’ve put every county on notice that they’ve been affected by Annie Dookhan. We’ve all got, potentially, people in jail based on Annie Dookhan’s work,’’ said Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr., president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association.

However, Terrel Harris, spokesman for the Executive Office of Public Safety, said the investigation has not found signs that drug samples in Worcester County or Western Massachusetts drug cases were tainted by Dookhan. The lists, Harris said, include “anyone jailed whose name matched one in a Dookhan case,” which could lead to duplication, or could ultimately have no connection.

Also Tuesday, the state court system said it has assigned judges to sit in special sessions around Massachusetts that will handle cases that may have been compromised. The special session in Suffolk County, which may confront the largest number of potentially compromised cases, will begin Oct. 15.

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The sessions will be held for the purpose of assigning lawyers and “addressing the immediate liberty interests” of people serving time “in connection with a drug conviction stemming from a questionable drug analysis,” said a statement from the public information office of the Supreme Judicial Court, which oversees the state court system.

State Police have said that 60,000 samples and 34,000 criminal cases may have been tainted by Dookhan.

On her resume, Dookhan reported working at a lab in Amherst that makes vaccines and does not have a criminal justice role. Harris said Tuesday that Dookhan never worked at a satellite Department of Public Health drug lab that is also in Amherst. Still, the proximity had raised concerns among some district attorneys that there might be a connection between Dookhan and the Amherst drug lab.

Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan’s office last month disclosed there was no tie between current and past prosecutions and Dookhan because his office used the state drug lab in Amherst to test seized drugs, not the Jamaica Plain lab.

Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless said in a telephone interview that “there is no information confirming, in any way, that samples from Amherst were sent to Jamaica Plain.”

But, he said, as a precaution, his staff is actively reviewing drug cases to make sure there is no link to Dookhan. He said his office was given 16 names by Meier’s team, and that after researching them, his staff discovered the only connection was that the suspects had similar names to defendants in other jurisdictions.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Martin Finucane can be reached at mfinucane@globe.com.
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