In a perfect world, Annie Dookhan would have been the image of a model employee, turning in loads more work than her co-workers, BUT a perfect world was the farthest, most false description for it. This is the story of Annie Dookhan, a crime lab chemist who single-handedly manipulated over 40,000 cases in one of the largest forensic scandals in history.
Annie Dookhan is of Indian descent who spent her childhood in Trinidad and Tobago up until her family immigrated to the United States. In 2003, when she was about 26 years old, she gained employment as chemist at the Hinton State Laboratory in Boston, Massachusetts. A year after, she married her Hindu husband, Surrendranath Dookhan. In 2005, she was promoted to the position of Chemist II whose responsibilities included analyzing drug evidence and testifying in court proceedings if necessary.
Dry-labbing, forgery, and tainting of evidence and credentials
Annie Dookhan’s co-workers had a high regard for the Indian chemist, especially because she had the highest productivity in their department. All that high regard had changed when an evidence officer discovered an anomaly in her work in June 2011. The evidence officer discovered that 90 drug samples were not properly signed out by Dookhan, with no evidence officer initialing the log book. The next day, the initials of evidence officer Gloria Philips were mysteriously in the log book. Dookhan admitted to the misconduct, and while suspended from the lab, she still went on to testify in court proceedings.
Further investigations revealed that in the years leading to the June 2011 discovery, Dookhan tampered with evidence, falsified findings, and dry-labbed pieces of evidence, a practice deemed unethical. At least 34,000 cases and an estimate of over 40,000 cases were affected by Dookhan’s malpractice.
Adding to her malpractice, Dookhan also falsified her credentials by fabricating job titles such as “on-call terrorism supervisor” and “special agent of operations”.
Unethical and unprofessional relationship with prosecutors
Annie Dookhan was found to have manipulated evidence to favor certain prosecutors. One popular name that surfaced during the Dookhan investigation was George Papachristos who denied having a deeper relationship with Dookhan than mere professional. In their e-mail exchanges, however, Dookhan shared intimate pieces of information about her and her purported unhappiness in her marriage. There was an e-mail where Papachristos said they should maintain a strict professional relationship, but the context of that response was not disclosed.
In one of Papachristos’ cases, he informed Dookhan that a seized sample of marijuana needed to reach the weight of 50 kilograms so he could press charges of drug trafficking against the owners. He then added, “any help would be greatly appreciated.” In her reply, the yield reached the weight of 80 kilograms, more than enough to be tried for trafficking.
There were a few more prosecutors who took advantage of Dookhan’s boldness to manipulate evidence. In fact, they believed that Annie Dookhan was who they needed to form their dream team.
The Annie Dookhan Aftermath
Annie Dookhan’s misgivings ruined the lives of thousands of people. She sent innocent people behind bars, let guilty criminals roam free, and had some suffer heavier sentences than what their actual crimes merited. One criminal got away with his crime and went on to commit homicide a year after Dookhan testified in his favor. She may not have realized it but in those years that she was with the crime lab, she did play God and shaped the lives of thousands involved. Of this, she had to say, “I screwed up big time. I messed up. I messed up bad.”