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A WBUR SPECIAL REPORT

BadChemistry

Annie Dookhan And The Massachusetts Drug Lab Crisis

About The Data

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Annie Dookhan performed at least 58,070 criminal drug tests during a decade with the Hinton State Laboratory, acting as either primary or secondary chemist.

Massachusetts state police extracted records from the Hinton lab’s databases and distributed a set of spreadsheets to defense attorneys whose clients’ cases might have been affected by Dookhan’s alleged malfeasance. Those records list every test Dookhan performed and include details on chemists she worked with, drug findings, the submitting agency and, in some cases, defendants’ names. We obtained a copy of this dataset during the course of our reporting.

The data is fragmented, inconsistent and incomplete. Defendants’ names aren’t standardized; many are shortened, combined or lumped together as “et al.” Some are simply police shorthand or jargon. The most common name is “P/C BUY,” meaning “Probably Cause Buy.” One is listed as “FAT BLACK MALE CB#1.”

There is no way to connect this dataset to the court system. We know what Dookhan and her colleagues did with individual drug tests, but we cannot systematically verify that those tests were used as evidence, nor can we check how many resulted in a conviction.

This is a problem for us, but it’s also a problem for the criminal justice system in Massachusetts, as well as the state investigators trying to respond the the scandal. While we know how many drug tests Dookhan performed, we don’t know how many individual defendants were affected.

But we can draw some conclusions from the data.

We know that cocaine was by far the most common drug found, followed by marijuana, heroin and oxycodone. The tests go back to 2004, predating the Bay State’s decriminalization of pot.

We also know that the time it took to complete a drug analysis varied widely, ranging from a few days to nearly a year, and that the average analysis time climbed until late 2008, then decreased for the rest of Dookhan’s tenure. We’re still trying to understand what this means.

Understanding what happened inside the Hinton lab is an ongoing process. As we find and explore data from the lab and the court system, we’ll post our findings here.

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