Falsifying information or manipulating data can be very tempting in the forensic science field. Criminal labs have huge quantities of criminal cases that have evidence to be tested, and forensics chemists are responsible of following specific procedures in order solve cases. However, when these procedures are not followed but instead information is misused, manipulated or falsified, forensic chemists must face consequences for their misconduct.
Annie Dookhan was a chemist that worked in a Massachusetts crime lab. Dookhan was in charge of many cases and had the responsibility to determine what was in the evidence. Since she manipulated evidence and altered tests, the person from the case might be guilty of something he or she did not do or set free of guilt. This was a very popular case involving manipulation committed in Massachusetts. Dookhan, who was arrested in 2013 for falsifying thousands of drug tests. Dookhan’s case involved ‘dry-labbing’ which refers to the act of supplying fictional yet plausible results in lieu of performing an assigned experiment (YourDictionary n.d Web., 2018). In other words, ‘dry-labbing’ is the act of making up data or information in a scientific experiment. First of all, Dookhan lied about her academic records by showing that she had accomplished a master´s degree in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts in Boston. After that, Doohkan started working in 2004 at a state drug lab where she tested around 9,000 samples in just one year. Her superiors and coworkers would always praise her for her dedication and fast pace in getting things done. She once wrote in an email: “My colleagues call me ‘superwoman’ and say that I do too much for the lab and everyone else, in general” (Annie Dookhan). These numbers seemed too high for a first-year chemistry lab worker; however, no one doubted her abilities until they caught her falsifying other coworkers’ initials in some documents that needed to be approved in order to test people’s samples. People started doubting her integrity and how she was getting things done. Her speed and efficiency were almost impossible to believe, so an investigation about her procedures and performance began in 2010, when her coworkers started to doubt her ‘superpowers’.
Due to the fact that the investigation initiated in June of 2010, Dookhan was suspended from her lab duties. Moreover, according to a Wall Street Journal by Jennifer Levitz, the results from the investigation showed that Annie Dookhan had altered and falsified about 15,570 of drug lab tests (2). She made up drug test data and lied under oath. For instance, she would add cocaine to samples in which no cocaine was present (AGO Lab Investigation). This type of manipulation of data not only damaged her career, but also the lives of innocent people who were incarcerated due to her misdeeds. Consequently, she affected more than 40,000 individuals, so Massachusetts decided to invest $30,000 for further review of the cases (Drahl & Widener 10).
So, what where Annie Dookhan’s motives leading her to falsify and manipulate the information of thousands of drug tests? Was there a specific reason behind her behavior? In an interview by the Massachusetts Police Department her attorney said that her motivation reflected the overachiever mentality to be the hardest working and most prolific and most productive chemist (Annie Dookhan). In fact, she declared to have dried-lab to get more work done (Annie Dookhan). Close people to her always said that she was a very determined and hardworking person, who always tried to be the best in her job. Nonetheless, after the chaos she caused, her ‘overachieving’ mentality ended up being counterproductive because the truth came out and she was punished for her crime.
In addition to her crime, there are multiple questions that can be asked when it comes to forensic science and how it works. The book Science by Jonathan Koehler states that experts, such as chemist must be trustable in how they manage test samples. Furthermore, even though they are experts, they are highly propense to make up information and lie about results due to the power to easily manipulate the data. Dookhan’s case is just one example of this. Forensics chemists are humans, so they can make mistakes; however, most of the time they do it on purpose just to finish their work on time.
In their review “The Coming Paradigm Shift in Forensic Identification Science” (5 Aug.2005,pg-892), Saks and Koehler confuse the roles adversaries in the criminal justice system with those of objective scientists. The assumption of discernible uniqueness may be seen to be a tenet of forensic science; however, it is not found anywhere in the literacy. They claim that Traditional forensic scientists seek to link crime scene evidence to a single person or object to the exclusions of all others in the world. Some analyses can never obtain resolution, and the practitioners of those disciplines would not claim to be able to do so. Those disciplines that do seek individualize evidence do not adhere to their invented proposition when a pair of marking is not observably different, criminalists conclude that the marks were made by the same person or object. The reference they cited for this proposition contain no such language. (7,8). Koehler and Saks did not point to one example of the foundations of the disciplines being baseless; they merely focused on errors having been committed by scientists. Forensic science is evaluating itself and its improving its practices (4). Enhancing the forensic disciplines should continue and must be advocated (Saks and Koehler, pg 607).
In addition, the statement voluntary signed by Annie Dookhan in August 28th,2012 stated: I, Annie Dookhan, had taken out samples of safe and tested them without them being signed out as proper procedure, I also went in Evidence Log book and postdated and filled the log book in. I signed my initials and an Evidence Officer’s initials in the book. That was my mistake and I can’t deny that I also batched, put similar samples together, and tested some and not others; I ‘dry labbed’. I have been doing it for about two to three years. At a few times, a few, I had to add a sample that came back from Mass Spec to make it what I said it was. I would get a sample from a known sample. I would try to clean it, the original. Up first but if it didn’t I would need to take something, drugs from another case. I intentionally turned a negative sample into a few positives. All in all, the interesting case of Annie Dookhan’s, a crime lab chemist who manipulated thousands of drug tests reflect the importance of following protocols in the forensic field. The consequences of her actions had a huge impact in the life of many people and created doubts about the public safety of Massachusetts.
Reflecting upon this case brings to question whether labs have enough and adequate protocol rules when it comes to drug testing. The safety of people should always be a priority; therefore, better protocol rules must be considered when it comes to drug testing. In 2012, she was charged with obstruction of justice and falsification of academic records. She admitted her misconduct and plead guilty to crimes of falsification of drug tests and was sentenced to three to five years in jail in 2013 (AGO State Lab Investigation).
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