Scandal at Massachusetts crime lab

(CBS News) BOSTON - Massachusetts officials continue to scramble this weekend with a crime lab scandal that puts more than 1,000 convictions in doubt. The tainted test results are all being blamed on a single crime lab chemist.

According to prosecutors, Annie Dookhan admitted to altering or faking the test results of drugs. One instance involved fake drugs on a suspect.

Dookhan's co-workers had their suspicions, detailed in a 100-page report by the Massachusetts State Police.

Mass. lab tech arrested for falsifying drug tests

One chemist said: "Dookhan would submit a cocaine sample and it would come back heroin or vice versa."

Dookhan's work has called into question the cases of 1,100 people currently serving time. More will likely be re-opened. To handle them, the state is setting up special courts, where judges could run longer sessions to work through the backlog.

"It's incalculable the harm that it's done to the integrity of the justice system," said Boston criminal defense attorney Bernard Grossberg.

Asked about the possibility that some folks who do have rap sheets and have a history of criminal records walking the streets in Massachusetts, Grossberg said: "While we don't like some of these guys getting released, that's what the law requires, and we will do it because we're the commonwealth of Massachusetts and we try to do the right thing."

Grossberg said what happened in Massachusetts should prompt other states to examine their own labs.

"I think in our system, our criminal justice system, there is nothing worse, than an unfair, unconstitutional conviction," he said.

If Dookhan is convicted, she could face more than 20 years in prison.

  • Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.

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