• Judges named to handle drug lab cases


    More than two dozen judges have been assigned to handle the fallout from the state drug testing lab scandal.

    The Massachusetts Supreme Court made the announcement on Tuesday in a press release.

    The release said trial courts would be ready to start handling cases immediately and that Suffolk Superior Court already had cases scheduled for the middle of October.

    Officials said district attorneys and defense bars in each county will work to begin establishing court dates.

    Annie Dookhan, 34, of Franklin, was charged Friday with obstruction of justice on allegations that she altered drug tests and skirted testing procedures at a state drug lab. She pleaded not guilty. Her alleged mishandling of drug samples prompted the shutdown of the lab in August and led to the resignation of the state's public health commissioner.

    Since the lab closed, about 20 drug defendants have been released while their attorneys challenge the charges against them based on Dookhan's conduct.

    State police, who took over operation of the lab from the Department of Public Health on July 1, 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 1,141 defendants who are currently serving time in county jails or state prisons based on samples tested by Dookhan. It is unclear how many of those samples were tainted by Dookhan's alleged actions.

    Gov. Deval Patrick has said dealing with the cases of people already incarcerated is the state's top priority. After that, officials want to hear the cases of people who have already served their sentences and people currently awaiting trial.

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