“I Messed Up Bad”: Lessons on the Confrontation Clause from the Annie Dookhan Scandal

In September 2012, scandal broke at the Massachusetts state crime laboratory: Annie Dookhan, a chemist at the lab, was arrested for falsifying thousands of drug test results. Amazingly, her misconduct had gone undiscovered for nine years, despite the fact that she testified–and was cross-examined–in at least 150 trials. Tens of thousands of prosecutions were jeopardized, and scores of appeals filed. But beyond the immediate fallout, Dookhan’s misconduct raises a bigger question: Is cross-examination of laboratory analysts–a right conferred by the Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts–effective at discovering misconduct in forensic testing, or merely a hollow right for defendants that imposes substantial costs on prosecutors? This Article examines the Dookhan scandal, arguing that it showcases the shortcomings of Melendez-Diaz, and proposes a new rule favoring the retesting of forensic evidence over needless cross-examination.