Reprinted from Trinidad Express
A Trinidad-born chemist, charged with tampering with evidence while working at a lab in Boston, USA, in 2013, has been granted parole from her state prison sentence and is no longer behind bars.
In 2012, Annie Dookhan had pleaded guilty to the charges and sentenced to serve three to five years in the custody of the Department of Correction.
On Tuesday, Dookhan was paroled and is no longer in custody at MCI-Framingham, where she had been serving her sentence.
The police said Dookhan mishandled drug samples sent to the lab by local police departments. And she confessed to police that she had not tested all the drugs she claimed she did, forged initials of her co-workers and sometimes mixed drug samples to cover her tracks.
Dookhan had tested more than 60,000 drug samples involving 34,000 defendants during her nine years at Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Boston. The lab no longer plays a role in forensic testing in criminal drug investigations. All drug testing is now done by the State Police.
Dookhan was involved in more than 40,000 cases at the lab from 2003-2012. Special court sessions have been created to deal with the cases where defendants are challenging their convictions on grounds that Dookhan, and the lab, tainted evidence that led to their imprisonment.
Back then the State Attorney General Martha Coakley had said authorities could not find a motive for Dookhan’s actions other than she wanted to be seen as a good worker.
Dookhan was described by her school mates and colleagues at work as a quiet, unassuming person. She stood out more for her dedication to her studies, friends and relatives said.
Former school teachers said Dookhan gained top grades as a biochemistry student, headed to medical school.
Her co-workers questioned whether Dookhan was pressured by a decision in 2009, by a US Supreme Court, that defendants had the right to cross-examine chemists in court who had prepared prosecution reports against them.
The decision meant that chemists now had to spend more time in court and less in the lab to keep up with the demands of the justice system.
At that time, her friends said, Dookhan was dealing with personal problems including a miscarriage.
In 2010, Dookhan was accused of padding her resume by claiming she had a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts.
She resigned her job while facing an internal department probe in March 2012. Her job was to perform identification tests on raw materials.