Netflix series to spotlight state’s drug lab scandals


Staff Writer
Published: 3/30/2020 5:03:05 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Thousands of drug convictions across the state have been thrown out due to misconduct by a Northampton chemist who worked at the state drug lab in Amherst while high almost every day.

The case of Sonja Farak, who pleaded guilty to stealing drugs from an Amherst lab for her own use in 2014 and was sentenced to 18 months behind bars, has already been the subject of extensive coverage in the Gazette, Boston Globe, Rolling Stone magazine and other media outlets.

This week, Farak’s case — and her “widespread evidence tampering,” as described by Supreme Judicial Court Justice Frank Gaziano — will be showcased in a new documentary series.

Debuting Wednesday on Netflix, the four-part “How to Fix a Drug Scandal” takes a deeper dive into Farak’s case, as well as that of her colleague at the Jamaica Plain lab, Annie Dookhan, who used short cuts, known as “dry-labbing,” which means identifying a drug sample as a narcotic by looking at it rather than testing it.

The film is directed by Erin Lee Carr, a New York-based director, writer and producer who in May 2019 released “At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal,” a documentary about the survivors of abuse by a former Olympic team physician.

In a statement issued as press notes, Carr said that the story about the drug lab scandal she tells is ” ‘Nurse Jackie’ meets ‘Breaking Bad,’ ” referencing the Showtime program about a pill-popping nurse at a fictional New York City hospital and the AMC series that focuses on an Albuquerque chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine dealer.

“Over four episodes, I attempted to paint portraits of chemists Sonja Farak and Annie Dookhan, but I give equal attention to people who are harmed by their misdeeds,” Carr said.

Carr added that she explores how Farak and Dookhan illustrate the war on drugs being done on the cheap.

“Ultimately, I want this series to contribute to national conversations about prosecutorial misconduct, addiction and forensic corruption,” Carr said.

The documentary re-creates Farak’s grand jury testimony, includes comments from her family, and also contains interviews with experts such as Northampton defense attorney Luke Ryan and Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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