Courtesy of Boston-area news tweep and chemist Brian D'Amico, I was alerted to the story of the shutdown of the Massachusetts state drug testing laboratory in August due to irregularities. But another tweet from @FreeRadical1 noted the political fallout from it, with respect to Governor Deval Patrick:
“We’re dealing with, by all accounts, a rogue chemist who for many years, going back to 2003 or 2004, has not done her job, and that’s gone undetected for a long time,” Patrick said. “I know there are those who want to say this has to do with the budget challenges of the last two years, but that’s just not borne out by the evidence.”I gotta say, a "rogue chemist" being blamed for troubles is pretty funny. Of course, the rogue chemist in mind, Ms. Annie Khan (or Dookhan) has gotten the Masschusetts criminal justice system in a good bit of trouble:
In a letter sent to members of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, association president Max D. Stern said his group, along with federal and state public defenders, were given more details on the extent of the scandal involving the former state chemist.
During the meeting, Stern wrote, the defense bar was given some insight into why the State Police have notified prosecutors that 64,000 drug samples — representing 34,000 criminal cases — may now be tainted as a matter of law and as a matter of science.
“The lab analyst in question had unsupervised access to the drug safe and evidence room, and tampered with evidence bags, altered the actual weight of the drugs, did not calibrate machines correctly, and altered samples so that they would test as drugs when they were not,’’ Stern wrote in the letter.What I found most remarkable about Ms. Khan/Dookhan's troubles is how they had not been caught:
On Thursday, top Patrick administration officials said that lab director Dr. Linda L. Han had resigned and director of analytical chemistry Julie Nassif had been fired. Disciplinary proceedings are now also underway against Dookhan’s direct supervisor, the officials said.
Administration officials said Dookhan’s supervisors missed obvious signs of problems.
In 2004, for example, Dookhan processed 9,239 samples while her peers tested an average of 2,938 samples. (emphasis mine)When someone at an analytical laboratory is 3 times as productive as their colleagues, people should be concerned about both quality and pencil-whipping.