A coalition of lawyers’ groups called on Attorney General Martha Coakley Wednesday to step aside and appoint an independent investigator to direct the inquiry into the state drug lab where former state chemist Annie Dookhan is accused of tampering with evidence in criminal cases.
Coakley’s office is spearheading a two-track inquiry into the former Department of Public Health lab in Jamaica Plain: the criminal inquiry of Dookhan and a deeper look into thousands of cases handled by other chemists at the lab closed by the Patrick administration this year.
“We are not satisfied that this situation is contained to one rogue chemist,’’ said Martin Healy, general counsel for the Massachusetts Bar Association. “It could be wider than that. . . . There are so many unanswered questions.’’
In the letter, the lawyers’ groups, including the bar association and the state’s public defender agency, reminded Coakley that lawyers in her office insisted this spring in Eastern Massachusetts courts that any problems with the lab and Dookhan were limited and that the science could be trusted.
Now, authorities fear that Dookhan may have tainted evidence in 34,000 criminal cases, a tally that covers the nine years she worked at the lab. Special court sessions have been set up to deal with more than 1,000 people who are now imprisoned or awaiting trial on drug charges that may have involved evidence handled by Dookhan.
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