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Drugs found lying around shuttered state crime laboratory

The former state Department of Public Health lab in Boston was shut down in August after state police discovered alleged widespread misconduct by chemist Annie Dookhan. She has pleaded not guilty to 27 counts of tampering with evidence, perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly mishandling drug samples or faking test results on substances she never tested.

The scandal threatens to jeopardize thousands of criminal convictions. Authorities have said Dookhan tested drugs in about 34,000 cases during her nine years at the lab.

State police reports turned over to prosecutors and defense attorneys show that investigators for state Inspector General Glenn Cunha found a plastic bag containing a “white rock substance” and test tubes containing unknown substances in a supervisor’s office. They also found pills taped to a lab bench cabinet, as well as old samples, including marijuana from 1996.

The fact that drug samples were found lying around the lab shows that the lab had broader problems that were not limited to Dookhan, said Matthew Segal, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

“The documents confirm that there were serious problems with how the lab was run,” Segal said.

“They confirm that when we talk about the number of cases that are affected by this scandal, it’s not just the 30-some thousand that Annie Dookhan touched. It’s every case that went through the lab. That means it’s much bigger and more costly and more messy than has been suggested in the past.”

Cunha is conducting a civil investigation into the lab, including reviewing the lab’s policies and procedures, while state Attorney General Martha Coakley is conducting the criminal investigation.

The reports describe visits to the lab by investigators in January and February.

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Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.boston.com/globe

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