Police cautioned to hold tight to evidence in wake of drug lab scandal

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Westport Police, and those in towns and cities around the region, are being cautioned to hold on to drugs and other evidence from past cases on the chance that it may have to be re-tested.

The order came recently in the wake of revelations that chemist Annie Dookhan had falsified the results of an untold number of tests at the Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Bostonwhere she worked. Those tests involve potentially thousands of criminal cases and convictions.

“The state has called all police departments to make sure that we don’t destroy any substances to make certain that they will be available if they need to be tested again,” said Westport Detective Jeff Majewski.

Typically in a drug case, he said, the police department submits some of evidence from a case to the crime lab for use before and during trial and keeps the rest. Asked how long such evidence is kept, he said, “A long time — years and years.”

Detective Majewski said the department has not been made aware of any specific Westport-related cases that may have been compromised.

Already attorneys who represented people convicted on such evidence have demanded that their clients be released due to falsified evidence.

Last week, Fall River defense attorney James Powderly told WJAR TV, “I’ve probably handled hundreds of drug trafficking cases specifically with this chemist … I have about 10 current clients that are serving sentences that have Dookhan-related offenses.”

One of those, he added, is close to being released. “His chemist was Annie Dookhan. Instead of relitigating the case, he had been serving about four years of his sentence at that point. We resolved it with essentially a plea that makes him eligible to be released immediately,” Mr.Powderly said.

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