Over 21,000 drug cases were dropped by a Boston court on Tuesday. Prosecutors from seven counties let thousands of low-level drug cases go—in what the media is deeming as perhaps the biggest dismissal ever, and it's all due to the misconduct of a lab chemist.
NBC News reports that chemist Annie Dookhan worked at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Boston. In 2013, she admitted to falsifying test results and mixing drug samples (as well as lying about her job qualifications under oath) to make her work performance look better.
In January, the state's high court ruled that district attorneys from the counties should focus on some cases to retry, and drop the remaining. "Some are having their case dismissed because we believe that the integrity of the system of justice is more important than their conviction," Cape & Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe said in a statement. "Others whose cases are of significance and can be proven independent of the actions of this chemist will not be dismissed." In his county for instance, one case was kept and 1,067 dropped.
The topic of lab credibility has become increasingly important. Many want labs to be professionally accredited and reviewed externally so this type of error doesn't happen. NBC shares that eight states in the past decade have been victim to lab scandals, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Dookhan served three years in prison and was released last year.