PUBLISHER'S VIEW: (Editorial): I am surprised for several reasons that there has not been an outcry for an independent  public inquiry into the Annie Dookhan debacle.  First, as the following article by Deborah Becker  in ""Bad Chemistry" notes, "lingering questions persist about state oversight of forensic testing."  The public still does not have a clear picture as to how Annie Dookhan was able to get away with her shoddy workplace practices, causing so much harm, over such a long period of time.  That means a thorough questioning under oath of Annie Dookhan's supervisors and co-workers in the lab,  and of the prosecutors who called her evidence in court. - backed up by full subpoena powers.  Secondly, there is still a murky picture of what motivated Annie Dookhan to falsify her results even though innocent people might be convicted because of her crimes.  Her testimony would hopefully be compellable at a public inquiry now that she has been sentenced and the criminal process is out of the way.  Thirdly, the enormity of the blow struck to the  heart  of the Massachusett's justice system  - like an earthquake  - calls urgently for a public inquiry.  Lastly, as the article points out, an examination into the system's breakdown in the Dookhan case - with testimony from administrators and academics - could put pressure on the politicians to remove all testing from the supervision of law enforcement, as the National Academy of Science has recommended. The Commissioner could also convene panels of experts on the various issues involved in the public inquiry - alongside the fact-finding process, as was done beautifully by Justice Stephen Gouge in his inquiry into many of the miscarriages of justice  in which former pathologist  Charles Smith played a significant role. The views of defence lawyers, prosecutors and judges could also be sought on the general issues, as was also done by the Smith Inquiry. As the article points out, some people are dismissing Annie Dookhan as a "rogue chemist - one woman who simply wanted to be the most productive worker in the lab. But I think that Matt Segal of the American Civil Liberties Union got it right when he said "There is no way that Annie Dookhan could have committed this misconduct by herself...There were failures up and down." The Ontario government realized that a public inquiry had to be held to restore public confidence in Ontario's pediatric forensic system, which had been lost as a result of Charles Smith and those in high positions of power who covered up for him.  The State of Massachusetts is in a similar position.  This proposal will not likely be popular among state officials who have reputations and careers to protect. That is why  the establishment of a fearless  independent inquiry that is  beyond political reach  and does its work in public for all to see is imperative.

Harold Levy: Publisher. The Charles Smith Blog.

STORY: "Forensic testing questions remain after Dookhan sentence," by Deborah Becker, published by "Bad Chemistry, on November 23, 2013;

GIST: "The former state chemist blamed for compromising thousands of criminal prosecutions by falsifying tests on drug case evidence is now a criminal in the eyes of the law. After pleading guilty to every charge, Annie Dookhan began a three- to five-year prison sentence at MCI-Framingham Friday.
But lingering questions persist about state oversight of forensic testing. Dookhan admitted that she didn’t always test the drug evidence she claimed to have tested, and that she sometimes forged coworkers’ signatures — though she didn’t know how frequent that practice was. Records show that in her nine years at the state lab, she routinely tested thousands more samples than her colleagues. A state review determined that more than 40,000 criminal cases relied on Dookhan’s testing. But some say that’s just the beginning. “We expect it could be many thousands more, tens of thousands more,” said Anne Goldbach, of the Massachusetts public defenders agency. According to Goldbach, initial reports from an ongoing state inspector general investigation show that oversight at the lab was so lax that every case that used its testing is now in doubt. “The potential could be 190,000 [affected cases],” said Goldbach. “Part of that depends on what we learn about the entire lab. Right now the entire lab is still suspect.” So far, almost 350 people have been released from prison. State officials estimate it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several years to handle all the criminal and civil suits stemming from the scandal. They say all of this was caused by one woman: a “rogue chemist” who simply wanted to be the most productive worker in the lab. But Matt Segal, with the Massachusetts branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, doesn’t buy it. “There is no way that Annie Dookhan could have committed this misconduct by herself,” said Segal. “There were failures up and down. And the documents that we’ve seen show that that’s what happened. The lab was in disarray, there was no accountability.”......... “It’s become urban myth, in my opinion, that all these individuals are languishing in jail, and it’s just drugs only. It’s not,” said Blodgett. “Most of these cases have accompanying charges of violence.” Whether the scandal leads to improved drug testing remains to be seen. The National Academy of Sciences issued a report in 2009 arguing that the increasing reliance on scientific tests in court demands stronger national oversight. It also recommended removing all testing from under the supervision of law enforcement to prevent any conflicts. Despite that, the testing in Massachusetts is now under the control of state police."

The entire story can be found at: