Friday August 31, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Berkshire District Attorney David Cape less says it doesn't appear any county drug cases are compromised after state police discovered a laboratory mishandled tests involving thousands of criminal convictions.

On Thursday, Capeless said drug evidence from Berkshire County is routinely sent to labs in Amherst and Sudbury, not the lab at the center of the improper drug testing.

The state Department of Public Health lab had been involved in certifying drug evidence in cases submitted by local police in dozens of communities around the state, including Boston.

After state police took over that lab operation in June, their audit discovered a chem ist failed to follow protocols, potentially exposing thousands of drug convictions to legal challenges.

Capeless said the state's district attorneys are awaiting the full report from the state police investigation.

"At this time, it does not appear that any Berkshire County cases have been compromised," he said.

Neverthless, Capeless called it "very troubling" that improper drug testing at the Department of Public Health lab "would happen at all."

In their audit, state police discovered that a chemist who had worked at the lab since 2003 had not followed procedures. It is not clear how many cases she mishandled, but she was involved in several thousand cases.

A state police spokesman said the investigation shows the chemist did more than cut corners. He said police believe she deliberately mishandled drug testing.