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Coakley calls for independent drug lab probe

Attorney General Martha Coakley is asking the governor to appoint an independent inves­tigator to review the policies, practices, and oversight at the state laboratory in Jamaica Plain where a chemist’s alleged mishandling of evidence has thrown thousands of drug cases into question.

The attorney general’s office wants to focus on a criminal inves­tigation of Annie Dookhan, the chemist from Franklin at the center of the drug lab scandal, and let the inde­pendent investigator take a broader look at the problem.

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“It is critical that all parties have unquestioned faith in that process from the beginning, so that they will have full confidence in the conclusions drawn at the end,” Coakley said in a statement. “As a result, we are now requesting that the governor, in consultation with district attorneys and defense counsel, appoint an independent investigator to conduct this broader review.”

Governor Deval Patrick’s ­office immediately said it would appoint someone.

“We will waste no time identifying a new person to take up this important responsibility,” Patrick’s spokeswoman Kim Haberline said in a statement.

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Coakley’s office had been conducting a two-track inquiry, investigating Dookhan and begin­ning an inquiry to determine if cases handled by chemists other than Dookhan were tainted.

A coalition of lawyers’ groups, including the state bar association and the state’s public defender agency, called last week for an independent investigation of the lab.

Authorities fear Dookhan may have tainted evidence in 34,000 criminal cases over the nine years she was at the lab.

Martin Finucane can be
reached at mfinucane@
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