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Number of drug lab cases tied to Dookhan reaches 40,000

The number of drug offenders whose cases involved alleged rogue state chemist Annie Dookhan has increased, widening the drug lab crisis.

The state drug testing lab in Jamaica Plain was closed after former chemist Annie Dookhan was arrested for evidence tampering. (Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro) The state drug testing lab in Jamaica Plain was closed after former chemist Annie Dookhan was arrested for evidence tampering. (Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro)

The number of drug offenders whose cases involved alleged rogue state chemist Annie Dookhan has increased.

David Meier, the special attorney appointed to identify the offenders whose cases were potentially compromised, said Tuesday that he submitted a final report to Gov. Deval Patrick.

Meier also said that the number of people whose drug samples involved Dookhan rose from an original estimate of about 37,000.

"As of today, there are about 40,000 names of individuals whose drug samples were associated with chemist Annie Dookhan in some way," Meier said.

Authorities have accused Dookhan of mishandling drug samples during her time working as a chemist at the state's Hinton Laboratory in Jamaica Plain.

Meier said his group worked for about 11 months and conducted a "file-by-file" review of cases that were potentially compromised by Dookhan between 2003 and when the lab was closed.

Meier, a former prosecutor in Middlesex and Suffolk counties, was appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick in September to lead the review of thousands of drug samples potentially tainted by Dookhan.

Patrick ordered the shut down of the state lab in Jamaica Plain last August after the scope of Dookhan's alleged mishandling was determined. That lab handled about 8,000 drug cases a year and was previously overseen by the Department of Public Health. State police took over the lab and others last July after a move by the legislature.

The drug lab scandal led to the resignation of a top state health official.

The alleged mishandling of evidence called into question the convictions of some people who faced drug charges. The release of some of those inmates was then sought while the cases were sorted out and drug samples were confirmed.

During an update to state legislators in November, then-state Secretary of Public Safety and Security Mary Elizabeth Heffernan said that about 200 inmates had been released statewide as a result the mishandling. About 80 people were released in Boston at the time of that update.

State officials had estimated that as many as 34,000 criminal drug cases may have been impacted.

Dookhan was arrested in September and was charged in various counties. She was charged by the attorney general's office with obstruction of justice and falsely pretending to hold a degree.

When Dookhan submitted her resume, she allegedly claimed to hold a master's degree from UMass Boston.

Dookhan has pleaded not guilty.

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.

 
 
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