Issue Date: February 17, 2014
Chemistry In The News
Thanks for the update on methods used to destroy war gases in Syria. C&EN does a great job answering the technical background questions that American Chemical Society members have in the back of their minds (C&EN, Dec. 23, 2013, page 6). Keep up the good work.
Another interesting story is the recent conviction of Massachusetts crime lab chemist Annie Dookhan.
Chemists know that a batch of illegal drugs distributed in an area can result in samples being used as evidence in dozens of cases. Thorough testing of each sample might require a half day of lab time, even though packaging and physical properties like color, odor, particle size, and crystal shape easily identify those that are part of the same batch. In most cases, tests must prove only that the sample contained an illegal substance.
Dookhan’s crime is apparently that she did representative testing rather than complete testing and then lied about it in court. The logical approach is to thoroughly test enough samples to establish the content of the master batch and then do sufficient testing on individual samples to prove they are part of that master batch. Courts should allow this more efficient testing procedure.
Paul E. Eckler
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