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Impact of misconduct by chemist at Massachusetts state lab widens

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Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced last week the creation of a central office in the state that will create a process to sort through thousands of criminal cases that must be reviewed due to misconduct on the part of a chemist working with drug evidence at a state lab over a nine-year period.

David Meier, a defense attorney and former prosecutor, was named by Gov. Deval to head the office. Meier and his team will work to match specific cases with the work of Annie Dookhan, the chemist in question.  Meier’s appointment was widely hailed by prosecutors and attorneys in Massachusetts as a positive move, as he has earned respect for his work and character from his peers. He will be paid $12,500 a month in the position.

The fallout and attempts to make sense of Dookhan’s errors don’t end with Meier’s appointment, however. Gov. Patrick has also asked state Attorney General Martha Coakley to separately conduct a review of cases to determine if issues related to the unreliability of Dookhan’s testing could have impacted the work of other chemists at the lab.

The specific nature of the accusations against Dookhan are unknown, with neither Massachusetts state officials nor the accused providing comment. Additionally, any motives that the chemist may have had in committing misconduct are also unclear.

Of his role in the newly created center, Meier said, “I stand before you today as an advocate for fairness and due process in the criminal justice system.” He stressed that he is not an advocate for prosecutors, defense attorney, and will not be playing any sort of judge in cases.

Current and former employees of the lab in question have been fully compliant with the investigation.

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