Chemist’s co-worker testifies
BOSTON (AP) — A former co-worker of a chemist charged in a Massachusetts drug lab scandal testified Thursday that the chemist appeared to have unfettered access to the lab.
Daniella Frasca testified during the trial of Shawn Drumgold, a Boston man wrongfully convicted of a 1988 homicide and now facing drug charges.
Drumgold’s lawyer is challenging the drug evidence in the case, arguing it could’ve been tainted by chemist Annie Dookhan, who is charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly skirting lab protocols, faking drug test results and mixing samples.
Frasca said Dookhan didn’t test the drugs in Drumgold’s case but acted as a “receiver” who checked the samples’ identification numbers when they were transferred from Frasca, who did a preliminary test, to a second chemist who did a second, confirmatory test. Dookhan also was the notary who witnessed the signatures of the two chemists on the drug analysis certificate.
Under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Thomas Costello, Frasca said she believes lab protocols were followed in the testing of drugs in Drumgold’s case.
“She did not touch any of those samples,” Frasca said of Dookhan.
Drumgold is charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin.
His lawyer, Rosemary Scapicchio, is arguing that Boston police arrested Drumgold to retaliate against him for winning a $14 million jury award in a civil rights lawsuit he filed after spending 15 years in jail in the murder of 12-year-old Darlene Tiffany Moore, who was shot while sitting on a mailbox in the Roxbury section of Boston. Drumgold’s conviction was later overturned, and he won the judgment against the Boston police in 2009.
Scapicchio is also arguing that the evidence in the case could have been tainted by Dookhan. Authorities have said Dookhan tested more than 60,000 drug samples covering 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the lab. She invoked her Fifth Amendment privilege and refused to testify at Drumgold’s trial.
Under cross-examination by Scapicchio, Frasca acknowledged that Dookhan had unusually wide access not given to other chemists at the lab, including the code to de-activate the lab’s alarm system so she could open the lab in the morning and the code to the lab’s database.
Frasca, a chemist who worked closely with Dookhan for eight years, said she never saw Dookhan violating lab protocols.
Dookhan’s alleged mishandling of drug samples has put thousands of drug cases in jeopardy. Since the lab was shut down in August, more than two dozen defendants have been released on bail or had their sentences put on hold while defense attorneys and prosecutors try to figure out how to deal with the cases. More than 1,100 inmates are currently serving sentences in cases where Dookhan tested drug samples.
On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and Families Against Mandatory Minimums sent a letter to state Attorney General Martha Coakley and the state’s district attorneys, asking them to dismiss thousands of minor drug cases and other cases where defendants have served at least half of their sentences.