DA reviewing drug tests in Hampshire, Franklin counties
NORTHAMPTON — The Northwestern district attorney’s office is investigating whether any drug evidence used in convictions in Hampshire and Franklin counties may have been tested in the state’s now-closed Jamaica Plain crime laboratory. It has not confirmed any such connections thus far.
The inquiry has been prompted by calls from defendants, lawyers and the Committee for Public Counsel Services concerned that their drug evidence may have been analyzed in the Boston lab. CPCS is the state’s public defender agency.
“We are investigating whether these reporting individuals either had the drugs in their cases tested in the Jamaica Plain laboratory or whether any prior convictions that formed the basis of any enhanced charges resulting in convictions in this jurisdiction had drugs analyzed by the Jamaica Plain laboratory,” Jeremy Bucci, chief trial counsel for the Northwestern district attorney’s office, said in a statement.
“Although to date we have not confirmed any cases being impacted in the Northwestern district, we will continue to work diligently to ensure that justice is and was served in each and every case,” Bucci said.
The Jamaica Plain lab, which shut down in August, has been plagued by a scandal involving former chemist Annie Dookhan, 34, of Franklin, who is accused of altering potentially thousands of drug tests that were used in criminal cases.
About 20 defendants whose evidence was handled by Dookhan have already been released as they challenge their convictions, the Associated Press reported this week. Dookhan was arrested Friday and pleaded not guilty to charges of obstruction of justice and falsely pretending to hold a degree from a college or university.
State Police in July took over the Jamaica Plain lab as well as the state drug lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. A criminal probe by the state Attorney General’s office continues.
Special court sessions will convene later this month to hear cases by defendants whose drug evidence was handled by Dookhan.
Cases with drug evidence in Hampshire and Franklin counties, as well as Athol, are sent for testing to either the UMass lab or to the State Police drug lab in Sudbury. Thousands of drug samples from the Jamaica Plain lab have been sent to the UMass lab for testing in recent years to deal with an ongoing backlog.
Dan Crowley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.