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DAs have worked to reach defendants affected by drug lab scandal

I write in response to Yvonne Abraham’s column regarding the drug lab crisis (“Time to clean up lab mess,” Metro, Nov. 12), a crisis occasioned by the lack of oversight of the state Department of Public Health under Governor Patrick. Strangely enough, there was no mention of that in her column.

What she did mention is that district attorneys "are ultimately responsible for [former state chemist Annie] Dookhan's misconduct."

Wrong. Dookhan is responsible for her misconduct, and the Department of Public Health is responsible for letting her misconduct go unchecked for years, resulting in thousands of affected cases.

Abraham may perhaps be the go-to person for the American Civil Liberties Union, the Committee for Public Counsel Services, and anyone else who wants to criticize district attorneys, but some context is in order. Abraham's characterization of CPCS as "cash-strapped" is amusing in light of the fact that district attorneys handle far more cases than CPCS, and do so with a fraction of CPCS's budget.

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Abraham also neglected to mention David Meier's appointment by Governor Patrick to investigate and issue a report to the governor, identifying individuals potentially affected by the drug lab scandal. A 2012 Globe article about Meier's appointment said his team would "compose a master list of suspects and convicts whose cases may have been involved and provide that roster to defense attorneys and prosecutors."

"The job of the office is to make sure no one falls through the cracks," Patrick said at the time.

The issue now, three years later, is this: Is there a defendant who was disadvantaged by Dookhan who has not yet been identified?

I would respectfully suggest that any defendant who has been affected has been addressed either by district attorneys reaching out to defense counsel, by district attorneys reaching out to defendants directly, or by defendants reaching out to district attorneys, as they were invited to do by district attorneys.

Abraham's column does a disservice to the work done over the last three years, principally by the district attorneys, to fix a problem created by an agency over which they had no control.

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Michael D. O’Keefe

District attorney, Cape and Islands District

Barnstable