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An independent investigator will be appointed oversee the state drug lab investigation, as state officials seek a $30 million reserve fund to reimburse agencies and cities dealing the scandal.
Attorney General Martha Coakley yesterday agreed to demands from groups of criminal defense lawyers and the Massachusetts ACLU to step down from the probe and said her office is recommending an independent investigator handle a sweeping review of the failures at the lab.
“It is critical that all parties have unquestioned faith in that process from the beginning so that they will have confidence in the conclusions drawn at the end. As a result, we are asking that the Governor … appoint an independent investigator to conduct this broader review of the lab’s policies, practices and oversight.” Coakley wrote in a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick’s chief of staff, Mo Cowan.
Patrick spokeswomen Kimberly Haberlin said, “We will waste no time identifying a new person to take up this important responsibility.”
The attorney general’s will focus on a criminal investigation of Annie Dookhan, the chemist at the center of the drug lab scandal, and let an independent investigator take over the duties.
“The Massachusetts Bar Association applauds the attorney general’s decision in calling for a broader investigation into the drug lab, and looks forward to working with the governor on this pressing issue,” Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel for the bar association, said in a statement.
Authorities are worries that Dookhan may have tainted evidence in over 34,000 criminal cases over the nine years she worked at the Jamaica Plain lab run by the Department of Public Health. Special court sessions are being held to deal with more than 1,000 people that were a part of the cases and have since been imprisoned or awaiting trial on drug charges that involved Dookhan. The lab in question has since been shut down.