FOX UNDERCOVER - In a carefully scripted sit-down with reporters, the man Gov. Deval Patrick tasked with unraveling the state drug lab mess says the administration is set to begin a case-by-case review of thousands of files at the now-closed lab.
During the briefing, which was arranged by the governor's office, former prosecutor David Meier revealed that his team has so far identified 2,000 current or former inmates whose cases were tied to disgraced chemist Annie Dhookhan and found another 7,500 to 8,000 people who had been put on probation or parole because of her.
While Meier was quick to point out the steps that Patrick had taken to try and address the legal nightmare, including the case-by-case search, he was not so quick to answer questions outside his initial remarks.
The drug lab scandal would certainly be a sensitive topic for Patrick should he run for higher office, and speculation has been building that he may want to run for president. But Meier, in an eight-minute opening statement, stayed largely on message, talking about how his team had identified the 10,000 cases affected by the fallout from the state Department of Public Health-run lab.
"Our group, through the cooperation of the district attorneys and the defense bar and the trial court, has identified approximately 2,000 of these individuals who were the most seriously impacted or affected," he told reporters in one of several interviews today.
But when FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet asked him, "You were handed quite a mess, is it better or worse than you expected?" Meier steered clear.
"It's not a question of relative better or worse," he replied. "I can say that each of the individuals within the criminal justice system are working together to identify those individuals who may have been impacted or affected by the alleged conduct of Ms. Dookhan."
Dookan has pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice and falsifying her academic credentials. In court documents, prosecutors revealed that a grand jury is likely going to indict her soon.
Hundreds of convicted criminals have already appeared before judges because of Dookhan – 400 defendants in Suffolk Superior Court alone during the past six weeks, Meier said – and many are winning freedom. Some are back in trouble again.
"From your perspective, does it bother you to see these people get released?" Beaudet asked the former homicide prosecutor.
"My personal opinion and my reaction is really not particularly relevant to my role and my mission," Meier replied.
"Are they a threat to public safety?" Beaudet asked.
"Again that's not my role, and it would be inappropriate for me to comment," Meier replied.
In another round of on-camera questioning, Meier was asked, "Do you think we know the full impact of this scandal?"
"Again, that's not for me to comment," he replied.
"Well it is your work," Beaudet asked. "You're looking at all these cases. Do you think we really know the full impact?"
"First of all in deference to the Attorney General's office, which is conducting an ongoing investigation into the alleged conduct of Ms. Dhookhan, I'm confident that we are doing everything we can to identify as many individuals as possible," he said.
When the camera was turned off, though, Meier acknowledged there could an additional 20,000-25,000 people whose criminal cases are impacted by this scandal. A more precise number will be determined during the two to three months it will take to complete the file-by-file review.