In the exacting world of chemical analysis, soft-spoken chemist Annie Dookhan — or “Little Annie” as she was sometimes called — was a dream employee.
Consider her performance at the vaccine manufacturer where she worked for nearly two years before taking a job at the state drug lab. Most days, Dookhan arrived at work in the dawn’s dim light. When her boss left in the evening, her small frame was still hunched over the bench performing tests. She leapt at overtime hours and routinely got results in a fraction of the time it took others. What’s more, she was smart. Dookhan said she was working on a master’s degree, and just one year later announced that she had completed the work for a doctorate from Harvard University. A banner reading, “Congratulations, Annie,” went up on a cabinet.
The problem was that much of what she said was not true. Dookhan had neither a master’s nor a doctorate. How she managed to get results so fast, no one is quite sure.
“Our turnaround time on a sample was two weeks,” said Anthony Parham, Dookhan’s supervisor at the time. “Annie would get results in about half that time. I figured she was working so hard because she wanted to make her mark.”
Dookhan, 35, has most assuredly done that. Now at the center of the state drug lab scandal, she has confessed to altering tests results and mishandling evidence in some of the thousands of criminal cases she handled. But her trail of deceptions, large and small, goes well beyond that. Dookhan, who has pleaded not guilty to all but one of the 27 charges on which she has been indicted, may go down as one of the most prolific liars in public life. Her actions have not only raised questions about the reliability of evidence used in 34,000 criminal cases, but have already resulted in the release of 286 offenders, some of whom are drug dealers, to communities throughout Massachusetts.
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