You may not know the name Annie Dookhan, but she has become an important figure in the world of criminal justice. A former lab technician at a drug testing facility, Dookhan was eventually charged with misconduct, tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, falsifying records. She was sentenced to prison for three to five years. What did she do to earn these penalties and scathing charges?

She opened up the Pandora’s box of the evidence testing world.

As a technician, it was Dookhan’s job to test drug evidence that had been collected in criminal cases. Instead of performing her job admirably and honorably, she took shortcuts, tampered with evidence, and sometimes didn’t even test evidence. All the while, she was filing reports that implicated the people who were accused in the cases relevant to the drug evidence she was testing.

Now there are nearly 25,000 people convicted as a result of Dookhan’s work, and there is growing concern that her influence will be quite difficult to reverse. Those nearly 25,000 people could end up waiting years, or even decades, for justice due to the constraints of the system and the backlog of cases that need to be heard.

No one should have to worry about the evidence in their case being mishandled, inappropriately tested or even tainted. But Dookhan’s widespread disdain for compliance has opened up that possibility, and criminal cases all across the country will never be the same as a result. 

Source: Slate, “Massachusetts’ Drug Problem,” Mark Joseph Stern, Sept. 30, 2016