Friday, former Massachusetts chemist Annie Dookhan pleaded guilty to all 27 counts of falsifying nearly 40,000 criminal drug cases, effectively upending the Massachusetts criminal justice system. Dookhan admitted to filing false test results, mixing drug samples together, and lying under oath about her job qualifications. She claimed that she committed her crimes to boost her job performance and was sentenced on Friday to three to five years in prison, plus probation.
For all the trouble Dookhan caused, a five-year sentence seems pretty light. I think of all the lives potentially ruined by her actions -- a modern triumph of personal ambition over truth and justice. It seems clear that Dookhan is not an isolated case. As Luttrell writes, the chemist had close ties with prosecutors and that state attorneys may have, in some cases, known the lab results were falsified.
I really hope people begin to realize that government is not a benevolent, altruistic, selfless entity dedicated to righting wrongs and saving us from evil. Here's the rule: anything with people in it has the potential to be evil, unjust, and self-aggrandizing.
Some people in government, some police officers, some politicians, some judges, some bureaucrats are good, decent, freedom-loving Americans. Shoot, some teachers are all right. The good people may even be a majority, but, as a whole, all institutions must be regarded with some skepticism.
The law has to apply to all, and when prosecutors or presidents step across the line, they must be held accountable. Luttrell notes a step in the right direction, but it is not nearly enough. A short rope and a tall tree would be more appropriate.