During the meeting, Stern wrote, the defense bar was given some insight into why the State Police have notified prosecutors that 64,000 drug samples — representing 34,000 criminal cases — may now be tainted as a matter of law and as a matter of science.
“The lab analyst in question had unsupervised access to the drug safe and evidence room, and tampered with evidence bags, altered the actual weight of the drugs, did not calibrate machines correctly, and altered samples so that they would test as drugs when they were not,’’ Stern wrote in the letter.
Terrel Harris, spokesman for the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, confirmed that Dookhan had “unsupervised access to the evidence lockup.” But he said he could not confirm the other details mentioned in Stern’s letter because they are the focus of an ongoing investigation.
Prosecutors in drug cases must be able to prove that the substances seized by police were scientifically determined to be illicit drugs and have not been tampered with during the months, and often years, that pass between arrest and a trial. Seized drugs were taken by police to the lab, where they were supposed to be kept in a safe and signed out by chemists for testing. After testing, the drugs were shipped back to local police departments.
The impact of the lab scandal was highlighted today in Norfolk Superior Court, where Judge Mitchell Kaplan declined to rule on a request for freedom by David A. Danielli, who pleaded guilty this year to possessing 500 Oxycodone pills.
The evidence in the case was tested in June 2011 by Dookhan. Danielli’s case is among 90 Norfolk cases now considered the first wave of tainted prosecutions because of what officials have called Dookhan’s “malfeasance.’’
The judge noted his refusal was procedural and not on the merits. He said Danielli, whose request for freedom has the support of the Norfolk County district attorney’s office, must go before the judge who accepted the guilty plea, not him.
Kaplan’s ruling disappointed Danielli, who was sent back to the Norfolk House of Correction to serve more of his three-year sentence.
“It was heartbreaking to see him sitting there,’’ said his daughter, Kristen Danielli, adding that she thought her father was hoping to be released today. “I believe my dad was put in a position where he felt he needed to make that decision [to plead guilty] for the benefit of his family. He was making a decision based on what he thought was the best choice.’