Thousands Of Criminal Cases Could Have Been Botched Due To ‘Sinister’ Lab Technician

990 /s/lab-perfect-technician

Annie Dookhan’s name recently made international headlines for the worst reasons. But before all that, she was just a young girl born in Trinidad, who moved to Massachusetts with her parents at an early age.

By Lucy Greider 10-12 minutes 

Across the nation, thousands of people work as lab technicians, testing substances day-in and day-out in order to determine whether someone is in fact guilty. One such chemist, a woman named Annie Dookhan, launched a chillingly sinister scheme that led to thousands of botched cases — and the consequences are incredibly dire today.

Annie Dookhan

Annie Dookhan’s name recently made international headlines for the worst reasons. But before all that, she was just a young girl born in Trinidad, who moved to Massachusetts with her parents at an early age.

Growing up, Annie was always a precocious child who tended to excel at whatever she tried. She attended Boston Latin, an elite high school, and later majored in Biochemistry at the University of Massachusetts. Everything seemed promising.

After receiving her college degree, Dookhan was excited to start her first real job: she’d be testing narcotics at Hinton State Lab. Nobody could have anticipated that it would be here that the nightmare would begin to unfold…

At first, everything seemed great. Annie was good at her job. So good, in fact, that one coworker even referred to her as a “superwoman” for her ability to go above and beyond in making sure things ran smoothly.

Within her first year at Hinton, Annie tested 9,000 drug samples. This already seemed like a lot, but when her supervisors considered that it was three times the average amount tested by her coworkers, it became even more impressive.

Then, unbelievably, in her second year on the job Annie’s productivity increased. That year she tested four time as many samples as the second most efficient employee. This was when people began to get a little suspicious…

Even though Dookhan was undoubtedly a good worker — she was known to come in early, skip lunch, and stay late — these numbers just seemed implausible. The company decided to perform an audit. What could this seemingly perfect woman be hiding?

To the Hinton Lab’s relief, the audit didn’t turn up any dirt on Annie. But this was just the beginning of the story. Soon, a Supreme Court case would blow her entire hidden life wide open.

The Melendez-Diaz case of 2009 ruled that defendants fighting a drug conviction had the right to question the chemist who had tested their alleged narcotics in court. Due to this decision, technicians found themselves spending a whole lot of time in court, with one crucial consequence.

The lab’s testing numbers dropped heavily, going from an average of 400 to 200 samples per month. They just didn’t have as much time as they used to. Meanwhile, Annie seemed to be doing fine. In fact, she was testing an average of 800 samples each month.

As if this wasn’t enough to raise eyebrows, in 2011 Dookhan was caught forging a coworker’s signature. Enough was enough. The lab decided to launch a formal investigation and retested all of Annie’s samples. The results were shocking.

What they found was incredibly serious. Many of the samples Annie had recorded as positive weren’t in fact drugs at all. They turned to the disgraced scientist for answers, and she made a grave confession that left people grasping for words.

The whole time, Annie had been “dry labbing.” That meant she wasn’t actually testing the drugs at all —merely looking at them to identify what they were. Out of 60,000 total samples that she’d been assigned, in reality, she’d only tested around a fifth of them.

But what were her motives? She wasn’t using the drugs herself. The only thing investigators could conclude was that Annie had an obsessive need to appear successful and thrive professionally. And then even more of the strange lies began to come forward.

It was revealed that Annie had also lied on her resume multiple times. The chemist claimed she’d graduated magna cum laude, for example, when her high school didn’t even offer that distinction. But the manipulations didn’t stop there. It seemed Annie had fabricated her entire life.

Former coworkers recall Dookhan telling them that she was in the midst of getting a divorce from her husband, and also that she was in the process of receiving a PhD from Harvard. All lies.

The consequences of Dookhan’s actions severely harmed thousands of innocent people’s lives. These individuals were wrongly convicted and imprisoned because of her crimes. The Massachusetts court had to figure out how to bring them justice.

Ultimately they threw out a full 21,587 drug convictions, all cases that Annie had worked on. Her victims were finally able to walk free — though they could never regain all the time they wasted behind bars.

As for Dookhan herself, she was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice, and tampering with evidence. In 2016, she was paroled. While she served her sentence for her scam, some masters of deceit don’t give up so easily.

Though officials were stunned, Dookhan’s story simply reminded them of another high-profile case: Elizabeth Holmes. By 2015, she had already reached the top of the world, but she was determined to go higher. The billionaire entrepreneur promised her company would change the world — and it did…in a way.

Always Wanted To Do Something Great

Born in 1984, Elizabeth stood out as a gifted student from a young age. She seemed destined to achieve greatness, and at age 9, she wrote a letter to her father saying she wanted to do “something that mankind didn’t know was possible.”

After mastering Mandarin in her teens, Elizabeth enrolled at Stanford University to study chemical engineering. Even such a prestigious academic setting, however, couldn’t quite keep up with Holmes’ ambitions.

Dropped Out To Pursue Her Vision

So, after less than two years at Stanford, Elizabeth dropped out to found her own consumer healthcare company. Not long after, she unveiled a revolutionary idea that took the entire world by storm.

Citing a lifelong fear of needles, the budding businesswoman announced that she was about to revolutionize blood analysis. With just a finger prick, her technology could allegedly perform 50 different blood tests.

In 2004, she officially brought her company together in the form of Theranos — a portmanteau of “therapy” and “diagnosis.” Though she chose to keep the company quiet from the general public, she coaxed big spenders to support her.

Convinced Major Investors

Elizabeth found her first investor in venture capitalist and family friend Tim Draper. Soon, she brought aboard Rupert Murdoch, future Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, and the Waltons — founders of the Walmart empire.

But to become an iconic CEO, Elizabeth needed more than just a lot of dough; she had to look the part. She took a page out of Steve Jobs’s book and began wearing black turtlenecks every day. According to some, she also significantly lowered her voice.

By 2013, Elizabeth introduced Theranos to the world by inking a monster deal with Walgreen’s. Elizabeth had billions in company coffers and became the talk of the town, but she did have to deal with criticism.

In scientific circles, statements abounded that Holmes’ technology simply couldn’t work. While she brushed off the naysayers, the young CEO also refused to explain exactly how they were wrong. She wouldn’t tell reporters or the FDA. Not even her employees knew — save for one.

The One Who Knew The Secret

In her late teens, Elizabeth met entrepreneur Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani. Though he was 19 years older and married, they entered a relationship that was both romantic and professional. Sunny became the COO of Theranos and the only other soul who knew the secrets of its technology.

Youngest Self-made Billionaire

For a while, the lack of transparency didn’t bother anyone. Forbes credited her the youngest self-made female billionaire in history, and Elizabeth received honors from Time Magazine and Harvard Medical School.

Elizabeth went so far as to become an icon for the next generation. In 2015, she launched a campaign called Iron Sisters to promote women in STEM fields. That was shortly before her entire world came crumbling down.

Disturbing Rumors Circulate

That year, disturbing rumors started to circulate about Theranos. For instance, anonymous sources whispered that Theranos secretly used other companies’ blood tests for demonstrations, while leaving their own technology completely untested.

These theories gained traction when Theranos employee Tyler Shultz turned whistleblower. Cooperating with the Wall Street Journal, he revealed that Theranos’ technology was completely inaccurate and didn’t do what the company claimed. All eyes turned to Elizabeth.

Holmes Dismisses Accusations

Attempting damage control, she rebuffed the allegations on CNBC’s Mad Money. She told Jim Cramer, “This is what happens when you work to change things. First, they think you’re crazy, then they fight you, and then all of a sudden you change the world.”

However, the general public didn’t buy her disruptor narrative any longer. Without an actual product, Theranos fell apart from the inside out and saw its $9 billion worth turn to ash.

After the Securities and Exchange Commission began interviewing so many Theranos insiders, it was no surprise when the bell came tolling for Elizabeth. She and Sunny were charged with eleven counts of fraud. Amazingly, she wouldn’t admit anything was wrong.

Holmes Maintains Her Story

Elizabeth continued to chat pleasantly with her scant employees, adopted a husky, and found a new love interest in Billy Evans. However, no level of denial could stop Theranos from finally dissolving in 2018.

As for how Holmes will pay for her crimes, it is exactly clear. If found guilty, the former tech giant could face up to twenty years behind bars. However, right before her trial date in 202, Holmes dropped some information that pushed her fate back a few months further.

Appearing in front of the judge over Zoom, Holmes surprised everyone by announcing she was pregnant. Further complicating matters, her due date wasn’t until July, overlapping the trial. The judge set the new trial date for August 31st. And as for her legacy, instead of changing the world, she’ll be remembered as a scammer.


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