BOSTON (AP) — The chemist at the center of a Massachusetts drug-testing lab scandal refused to testify Wednesday in a drug case against a Boston man who once spent 15 years in prison for the slaying of a 12-year-old girl he says he did not commit.
A lawyer for Shawn Drumgold asked a judge to dismiss two drug charges against her client because chemist Annie Dookhan's initials appear on a drug analysis form in the case. The judge refused, and Drumgold's drug trial began Wednesday afternoon.
Dookhan is charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly skirting protocols and faking test results at the now-closed lab.
Dookhan appeared in court but did not take the stand and exercised her Fifth Amendment right not to testify.
"It would be wrong for anyone to read into Mrs. Dookhan's decision to assert her Fifth Amendment privilege as any admission of criminal culpability," her lawyer, Nicolas Gordon, later said. "She made that decision based on my advice, not only because she has pending criminal charges but also because of the indication by the attorney general's office that more charges might be forthcoming."
Thomas Costello, the prosecutor in Drumgold's case, said although Dookhan's name appeared in the paperwork used in court, she was simply the notary and the testing of the suspected cocaine and heroin was done by two other chemists.
The drug case is separate from Drumgold's overturned conviction in the 1988 killing of 12-year-old Darlene Tiffany Moore, who was hit by stray bullets from gang crossfire while sitting on a mailbox in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood. A judge in 2003 freed Drumgold after a key witness recanted his testimony. Drumgold always maintained his innocence.
A federal jury awarded Drumgold $14 million in 2009 in a civil rights lawsuit he filed against police in the case.
When Drumgold was arrested on drug possession charges in 2011, he was the only person out of 14 people in a Boston apartment charged, his lawyer, Rosemary Scapicchio, said Wednesday. He denied the drugs were his and she thinks Boston police only arrested him because of his legal victory against the department.
Scapicchio said Wednesday prosecutors hadn't provided her with sufficient drug testing evidence in the case. Costello said they have been unable to fulfill her request for some documents because the closed lab is a "crime scene" in the custody of the state attorney general's office as it investigates the testing scandal.
State police, who took over operation of the lab from the Department of Public Health, have said Dookhan tested more than 60,000 samples covering 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the lab. State officials said last week that they have identified more than 1,100 defendants who are serving time in county jails or state prisons based on samples tested by Dookhan.
Dookhan has pleaded not guilty and is free on $10,000 bail.