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editorial

State must quickly identify tainted drug-lab evidence

The resignation of John Auerbach, the state’s top public health official, offers a measure of accountability for the fiasco at the state drug testing lab. But it comes as cold comfort for any defendant imprisoned, held on high bail, deported, stripped of child custody, or tossed out of public housing based on potentially tainted evidence.

Former forensic chemist Annie Dookhan, the subject of a criminal probe, tested roughly 60,000 samples in 34,000 criminal drug cases before her resignation in March. Investigators say she willfully ignored her duties, even mixing samples to ensure positive results. Prosecutors and defense attorneys are trying to determine the exact extent of the damage. One miscarriage of justice would be too many. But the number could reach into the hundreds.

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