On the heels of a Boston Globe report that special courts are being set up JP State Drug Lab chemist Annie Dookhan was arrested today at her Franklin home on two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of falsely pretending to hold a college degree. She was scheduled to be arraigned at 2 p.m.
What could possibly drive a chemist responsible for analyzing drugs seized in criminal cases to taint the evidence thousands of times?
It's one of the big unanswered questions in the sprawling scandal that officials say stems from the actions of one person: Annie Dookhan.
Attorney General Martha Coakley, whose office has been investigating the scandal, spoke to the press from her Boston office. She said that, so far, no clear motive has emerged for Dookhan tampering with the evidence in as many as 34,000 cases.
But Coakley did say two common reasons a drug lab chemist might go rogue don't appear to apply: a drug habit or money trouble. Dookhan appears to have had neither.
Instead, a drive to be acknowledged as a good worker may be behind Dookhan's years-long alleged spree. Dookhan processed two or three times the drugs than her peers, Coakley said.
"[She] appeared to be proud of that in that she was thinking she was an effective worker," the state's chief law enforcement official said.
Whatever the motive, Coakley said the state is focused on dealing with the fallout.
"Uppermost is to get this right for individual defendants and make sure this doesn’t happen again," Coakley said. "Her actions totally turned the system on its head."
Thousands of convicted drug dealers could go free if their cases were based on evidence handled by Dookhan. Several have already done so.
Coakley said Friday's charges are not the end of criminal charges Dookhan is likely to face. The two felony counts of obstruction of justice could bring 10 years in prison each, the attorney general said.
The charge about claiming a false college degree comes from testimony she gave in 2010 that she has a master's degree in chemistry. Prosecutors say she only had an undergraduate degree.