Annie Dookhan was supposed to be an independent witness, a state chemist coolly analyzing drug evidence for the court. But her e-mails over the last nine years, obtained by the Globe, vividly detail her close relationship with prosecutors, including a man to whom she poured her heart out, and her strong desire to put suspects behind bars.As portrayed on TV, the people who work on evidence seem to act as agents of the police, pursuing evidence the police suggest, and even taking a hand in the arrest from time to time. But in reality, they're supposed to be dispassionately evaluating the evidence to see what the truth is. But in fact, they're largely in contact with the police and prosecutors, and not the defendants and their lawyers. It's hard not to see the police and prosecutors as the their friends and the good guys, and the defendants and their lawyers as the bad guys.
Dookhan, arraigned Thursday on 27 counts of altering drug evidence and obstructing justice, viewed herself as part of the prosecution team, the e-mails show. She coached assistant district attorneys on trial strategy and told one that her goal was “getting [drug dealers] off the streets.” When Dookhan told a prosecutor that she could not testify in her case, the woman replied with an anguished: “No no no!!! I need you!!!”
The collection of more than 1,000 e-mails could raise new questions about the reliability of any of Dookhan’s work in the 34,000 drug cases she handled since 2003 at the state drug lab in Jamaica Plain. Dookhan’s admitted altering of test results and mishandling of evidence has already led to the release from jail of 159 drug case defendants, with many more expected to be freed.
Objectivity is hard. Very few people achieve it.