NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

October 19, 2013

Prosecutors seek stiff sentence for Mass. chemist

(Continued)

The court proceeding was unusual because it was held in open court. Typically, such lobby conferences are held at sidebar or in a judge’s chambers and are designed to give defendants a sense of their likely sentence if they plead guilty.

Judge Carol Ball said she wanted to hold the proceeding publicly because the lab scandal has had such a serious impact on the criminal justice system that she felt it was important to resolve the case “with everything being open and up front.”

Ball told Dookhan’s lawyer she found it hard to believe that Dookhan did not foresee the consequences of her actions.

She said Dookhan’s behavior struck her as a sign of someone with low self-esteem who was trying to look “cool” by pumping up her reputation at work.

“This is sad, pathetic behavior, frankly, but the extraordinary damage is just incalculable,” Ball said.

Ball asked if Dookhan’s actions were motivated by a desire to “get these bad guys off the street.” Kaczmarek said investigators found no evidence of that.

Kaczmarek said the fallout from Dookhan’s alleged actions has cost the state “hundreds of millions of dollars” to try to assess the scope of the tainted evidence and to mitigate the effect on thousands of people charged with drug offenses during the nine years Dookhan worked at the lab. The court system has been deluged with motions for new trials filed by defendants who may have been affected.

State officials have estimated that Dookhan tested samples involving more than 40,000 defendants during her years at the lab.

In an interview with state police, Dookhan acknowledged that she engaged in “dry labbing,” when she would assemble a large collection of samples from different cases, test only a few of them, but label all of the samples as positive for illegal drugs.

She previously pleaded not guilty to 27 criminal charges.

Ball said she will consider the sentencing recommendations made by both sides and decide next week about what sentence she would give Dookhan if she changes her plea to guilty.

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