The phrase “If you got ’em, smoke ’em” generally applies to cigarettes. But it can also apply to police evidence, which, as we know, sometimes goes missing.
Some evidence found at crime scenes never gets documented.
Some documented evidence makes it to a state lab run by a junkie.
The Boston Herald tells us the story of a chemist who smoked evidence while testing it.
A new report by the Massachusetts attorney general says for about eight years state chemist Sonja Farak used drugs in the state lab to feed her habit.
The investigation revealed Farak began using drugs in the Amherst crime lab, which stores and analyzes alleged controlled substances seized by local and state police, in 2004 or early 2005.
She started out by smoking “standard” samples of methamphetamine the crime lab used to compare against evidence brought in for testing.
After she ran out of meth she began sampling ketamine, LSD, cocaine and other street drugs.
By 2012 she was using the lab to cook up batches of crack, the report says.
Farak says she was smoking crack 10 to 12 times per day, sometimes at her desk. She also admitted to being high when testifying in court.
I’ve never smoked crack, but it seems like it would degrade the quality of one’s work.
Farak was arrested in 2013 after a co-worker noticed a lot of missing samples. Farak was convicted in 2014 of tampering with evidence and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Prosecutors say Farak’s behavior is thought to endanger thousands of cases.
In a separate Massachusetts case, Annie Dookhan, a chemist at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory in Jamaica Plain, pleaded guilty in 2012 to having falsified thousands of drug tests and sentenced to serve five years. She admitted to not testing drug samples before declaring them positive and sometimes mixed up samples to get positive results. She also forged signatures, lied about her credentials and probably took up more than one space in the office parking lot.
Dookhan has been released from prison. Hundreds of people her “work” sent to prison have been released too.
Mr. Magoo side note: In 2012, investigators quizzed Farak about lab procedures after Dookhan’s arrest. Farak said she smoked crack cocaine that morning and again at lunch before her 1 p.m. interview. Over the course of the 20-minute interview, “there were no suspicions ever raised about her use of drugs,” Farak testified.
Defense attorneys wonder how many people are in jail based on bad data?