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Numerous drug cases in limbo in wake of drug lab scandal

Our Chicago readers may be interested in a case out of Massachusetts involving a chemist who is accused of deliberately faking test results on drug samples in numerous criminal cases. The 35-year-old chemist faces a host of charges-27 total-including obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence, perjury and pretending to hold a college degree.

The alleged misconduct reportedly led to state police shutting down the state lab where the chemist worked. That lab was used by police departments to test drugs in criminal cases. Since then, around 200 defendants have been released from prison and their cases put on hold while their attorneys challenge their convictions. Numerous other cases could also be affected since authorities have said the chemist was involved in over 60,000 samples involving 34,000 defendants during her nine years working at the lab.

During an investigation, which took place after another chemist noticed various irregularities in his coworker's work, she admitted to state police that she would sometimes only test five out of 15 to 20 samples but would list them all as positive for the presence of a drug. She also reportedly acknowledged that she would sometimes take cocaine from one sample and add it to negative samples to make them test positive.

Oddly, the only motive authorities have identified is that the chemist desired to be seen as a good worker.

The chemist has pleaded not guilty to the charges of obstruction of justice and pretending to hold a degree, though she hasn't publicly commented on the allegations.

Criminal defense can take twists and turns at various points of the process. This is an unusual twist, but one that may mean a favorable outcome for numerous criminal defendants in that state.

Source: ABC News, "New Changes for Mass. Chemist in Drug Lab Scandal," Denise Lavoie, December 17, 2012.

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