Up to 23,000 current prisoners are expected to be released from the Massachusetts State Prison system because the female lab chemist handling evidence in their cases lied, forged colleague’s signatures, and purposefully contaminated evidence. Here is the story of Annie Dookhan, nicknamed “Superwoman” for her record productivity at the state crime lab.
Annie Dookhan, a female born in Trinidad & Tobago in 1977, moved to the United States as a child, became a chemist, and took a job at the state crime lab in Massachusetts, where she earned the nickname “Superwoman” due to her speed and efficiency running lab tests, primarily on criminal drug cases. Her productivity was so high, she was processing four times the work of the average government lab worker. Or was she?
Annie’s secret was to not test the samples at all, but to take the short cut by lying and confirming that whatever substance police told her to check for was present, or to contaminate evidence, or forge co-worker’s signatures guaranteeing the chain of custody of evidence.
In the aftermath, a state crime lab was shuttered, 5 workers were fired for failure to properly supervise this rogue employee, up to 23,000 prisoners are expected to be released from prison, and Annie plead guilty to falsifying drug tests.
This is the largest dismissal of convictions in U.S. history. But have you heard anything about this story?
What was her motive?
While it is usually futile to ascribe logical rationale to a woman’s actions, one can make a few observations. Annie was described by classmates and colleagues as “an overachieving sort of kid,” “normal, sort of nerdy student,” “wasn’t really noticed,” and “hardworking, quiet, smart and determined.” The only motive authorities have concluded is that she wanted positive attention from others. In other words, she just wanted to be liked. She wanted the same thing Instagram models, Dubai portopotty girls, and attention whores want: male attention and validation.
Another twist is that Annie suffered a miscarriage in 2009, and later stated she was going through a “long divorce.” There are signs of impropriety between Annie and the court prosecutor, Norfolk A.D.A. George Papachristos, who was forced to resign for his direct phone and email contact with the state lab worker. Though state police could not find evidence of an affair, Annie’s husband suspects she was cheating, and police found emails complaining to the D.A. that she was unhappy in her marriage. Annie unethically performed professional (if not personal) favors for the D.A. Her husband warned prosecutors that Annie was a chronic liar and not to believe anything she said.
How Was She Caught?
In 2009, the US Supreme Court ruled that defendants had a right to cross examine chemists who helped prosecute them. Annie now had to testify in court, and the following year she was caught lying about her qualifications when she claimed a Master’s education in Chemistry, when in fact she had never taken any master’s level courses.
Due to the time required in courtroom testimony, sample testing volume by other workers in the lab dropped from around 400 to 200 tests per month. But during this same time, Annie was testing over 800 samples a month.
Once Annie was found to have lied about her background during courtroom testimony, she was investigated more closely. The fact that her productivity was double the most productive chemist’s, and roughly 4 times the typical workers should have raised red flags.
While the shoddy oversight of her supervisors took a couple more years to reveal her gross incompetence and criminality, finally Annie’s “work” at the state crime lab was revealed, and she was sentenced to 3-5 years of prison for altering lab records (to say nothing of perjury, prosecutorial misconduct, or deprivation of due process of her tens of thousands of victims). She was paroled after serving only 2 years.
What is the cost to society in man-hours spent prosecuting, investigating, jailing, housing, feeding, and processing 23,000 people? What is the human cost to the thousands of innocent people jailed by this woman’s deeds? What is the cost to society by releasing dangerous criminals early? What is the cost of shuttering an 8 story state crime lab indefinitely? The forced resignations of the state director of Bureau of Laboratory Sciences and the Public Health Commissioner? On top of all this, there are the state expenditures of “hundreds of millions of dollars” in dealing with the aftermath of these cases.
It’s difficult to quantify, but the costs are certainly more than the punishment Annie received: two years in prison. In fact, while many of her victims still sit in prison, waiting to be released, Annie has already served her time and been released on parole.
The Many Victims
As many as 23,000 prisoners incarcerated during Annie’s 9 years at the state crime lab will soon be released. These were almost all low-level drug offenses. Most prisoners fit into one of two categories:
1. The Innocent. Thousands of these victims were likely innocent. Indeed, while governor Deval Patrick appointed a new cabinet member to see which, if any, cases the state would attempt to prosecute again, it came up with a list of 117 out of tens of thousands. There are thousands of innocent men sitting in jail today because this woman lied about evidence.
2. The Hard Criminal. Often when a suspicious person is found, say, canvassing a neighborhood late at night with a group of thugs, there is little he can be charged with, prior to catching him in the act of a violent crime. But many of these types of serious criminals are known to carry drugs. So police officers search them, and book them for drug crimes. Regardless of one’s position on drug laws, it is a fact that they are easy way of getting dangerous criminals off the streets.
Many of the tens of thousands set to be released are undoubtedly violent criminals, and the public is now at great risk as these thugs are released back into our neighborhoods.
One example is Donta Hood (pictured above), a man Annie helped convict in 2009, who was released from prison in 2012 when the state was forced to drop charges due to Annie’s incompetence. Eight months after being released, Hood was arrested for the murder of Charles Evals. A murder that would never have happened had his drug sentence been carried out fairly.
How many more people will be robbed, raped, or murdered by criminals released due to Annie’s lying?
Is Annie an isolated incident?
Joyce Gilchrist was a chemist in Oklahoma City who earned the nickname “Black Magic” for her ability to match DNA samples that other crime lab experts could not. Joyce simply lied and claimed DNA matched, when it did not, which led to thousands being unjustly imprisoned, and the execution of 11 men.
One of her victims, Jeffry Todd Pierce, a husband and father of two children with no criminal record, was falsely convicted of rape in 1986, and later freed in 2001 after spending 15 of his best years in prison. The city paid a multimillion dollar settlement to Pierce, but his life is forever altered.
Many of Joyce’s victims have received no compensation. After Joyce was fired, she claimed she was terminated for sexual harassment. Despite causing 11 men to die, Joyce was not charged with any crime.
Sonja Farak was a Massachusetts crime lab chemist who smoked crack every day at work, occasionally throwing in some meth, ketamine, ecstasy and LSD. Because why not? She didn’t have to pay for it. She just took it from the high quality stash that the police provided her with as “evidence.” In addition to using the evidence, Sonja also began smoking and snorting the “standard samples” that the lab kept on hand to compare with seized street evidence.
She did her damage for 8 years before being convicted in 2013. Sonja worked at a different crime lab from Annie, showing the problem is systematic. Sonja was mainly viewed with sympathy. She was a “victim of drug abuse,” not a criminal who corrupted the system of justice.
1. These stories are huge cases of injustice that many media outlets are sweeping under the rug. Thousands of innocent lives were seriously affected, and people died. All because of the lies these women sought in order to seek attention. While a stubborn man being forced off an airplane is deemed national news, chances are, you have never heard of the stories of these women.
2. Be wary of ‘official’ claims. I take the conclusion of a government panel, official crime lab, or investigatory agency with a grain of salt. I do not believe stories about chemical weapons (see: Saddam, Assad) just because my government says so. I do not believe media or government or even most major institutions today. It pains me to say so, but this is simply the world we live in. The state crime lab, where workers are free to indulge themselves in as many free drugs as they like, while they lie and distort crime lab reports for a decade with impunity, is not some magical place of truth or justice.
3. Women will attention whore, to incredible degrees. Women crave attention and as they leave their 20s if they do not have a happy family and a lifestyle that is in harmony with their feminine side, the outcome can be extreme.
4. The pussy pass is as strong as ever. Frankly, even in The Current Year, I would expect a woman responsible for the deaths of innocent men to at least receive a token prosecution, and I would expect the woman responsible for the largest release of prisoners in U.S. history to receive a serious punishment. But they are not. Because patriarchy or something.
For a comprehensive investigation of this case, see WBUR’s Special Report: Bad Chemistry.