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Johnson v. Han

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

July 17, 2015

LEONARDO JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
LINDA HAN et al. Defendants.

ORDER

INDIRA TALWANI, District Judge.

I. Introduction

In November 2009, Plaintiff Leonardo Johnson ("Johnson") was convicted for distribution of a controlled substance in a school zone. At trial, the prosecution introduced the results of drug tests performed by Annie Dookhan ("Dookhan") and Daniel Renczkowski ("Renczkowski") of the William F. Hinton Drug Laboratory in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts (the "Hinton Lab"). Johnson now brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against employees of the Hinton Lab for violations of his constitutional rights arising from the falsification of this druganalysis evidence and the withholding of exculpatory negative test results. Defendant Elizabeth O'Brien ("O'Brien") has filed a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) [#30] as well as a Motion for Judicial Notice in Support of its Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint [#32] [sic]. For the reasons set forth below, the court DENIES both motions.

II. Factual Allegations

For the purposes of this motion to dismiss, the court takes the factual allegations in the complaint as true and construes the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009).

A. Drug Tests Performed by the Hinton Lab

In November 2008, Johnson sold an undercover officer a substance that resembled crackcocaine but was actually part of a nut. Compl. ¶¶ 60-62 [#1]. Johnson was arrested and charged with distribution of a Class B controlled substance within a school zone. Compl. ¶ 62. The substance was sent to the Hinton Lab for testing. Compl. ¶ 65.

On February 4, 2009, Dookhan indicated on a Drug Powder Analysis Form that she had completed two preliminary tests on the substance and both tests had returned positive results for the presence of cocaine. Compl. ¶ 70. Dookhan's statements on this form were false. Compl. ¶ 71. She had not performed any tests; she had "dry labbed"[1] the substance. Compl. ¶ 71.

On February 10, 2009, either Dookhan or Renczkowski performed several gas chromatography and mass spectrometry tests ("GC/MS test") on the substance. Compl. ¶ 74. In each GC/MS test, the substance tested negative for cocaine. Compl. ¶ 74. Either Dookhan or Renczkowski filled out a results form. Compl. ¶ 74. Where a negative result should have been recorded for the substance, either Dookhan or Renczkowski left the form blank. Compl. ¶ 74.

On February 12, 2009, Dookhan prepared the substance for another GC/MS test. Compl. ¶ 75. The next day, either Dookhan or Renczkowski performed the GC/MS test. Compl. ¶ 76. The substance tested positive for cocaine. Compl. ¶ 76. This positive test result was due to either: (1) falsification; (2) cross-contamination by other samples, or (3) switching the substance with known sample of cocaine. Compl. ¶ 75. Either Dookhan or Renczkowsk completed a results form, indicating that the substance had tested positive for cocaine. Compl. ¶ 76. At the same time, either Dookhan or Renczkwoski retroactively filled out the February 10, 2009 results form by marking that these tests results had also been positive. Compl. ¶ 76.

Dookhan and Renczkowski prepared a printout of the positive test result and signed a control card indicating that the substance had tested positive for cocaine. Compl. ¶¶ 77-78. The prior negative results were not referenced on the control card. Compl. ¶ 77. On April 17, 2009, Dookhan provided the prosecutor in Johnson's case with a discovery packet. Compl. ¶ 79. Only the positive test results were included in the discovery packet. Compl. ¶ 79. None of Dookhan's supervisors reviewed the discovery packet before Dookhan gave it to the prosecutor. Compl. ¶ 79.

Johnson's trial began on November 16, 2009. Compl. ¶ 84. Dookhan and Renczkowski testified for the prosecution. Compl. ¶ 88. Dookhan falsely testified that she had a Master's Degree in Chemistry and that she had conducted two preliminary tests on the substance, both which had returned positive results for cocaine. Compl. ¶¶ 89-90. Dookhan further testified that the GC/MS test showed a positive result for cocaine; she did not mention the negative GC/MS tests. Compl. ¶ 93. Renczkowski similarly testified falsely that he had performed tests on the substance that returned positive results for cocaine. Compl. ¶ 92. Renczkowski also omitted mention of the negative GC/MS tests. Compl. ¶ 92. Johnson was convicted on November 18, 2009. Compl. ¶ 94. He served two years and one day in prison. Compl. ¶ 94.

B. O'Brien's Role at the Hinton Lab

At all times relevant to this case, O'Brien worked in the same room as Dookhan at the Hinton Lab. See Compl. ¶ 26. O'Brien's title was "Chemist III, " which made her the "team leader" of the chemists in her room. Compl. ¶ 26. According to Johnson, as team leader O'Brien was Dookhan's immediate supervisor. Compl. ¶ 47.

"Sometime in 2009, " O'Brien received a promotion to "Lab Supervisor I." Compl. ¶ 26. After her promotion, O'Brien took control over the evidence storage room used by the chemists in the room she shared with Dookhan. Compl. ¶ 26. O'Brien then became aware that Dookhan took samples from the evidence room without properly "logging... out" the samples. Compl. ¶ 26.

In 2007 or 2008, before her promotion, another employee expressed concern to O'Brien about Dookhan's testing rate. Compl. ¶ 47. O'Brien dismissed these concerns. Compl. ¶ 47. Both as "Chemist III" and "Lab Supervisor I, " O'Brien directly observed Dookhan's lab techniques and testing methods. Compl. ¶ 26. O'Brien was aware of Dookhan's purported testing rate, and O'Brien understood that this rate was improbably high for a chemist following proper lab procedures.[2] Compl. ¶¶ 26, 42. O'Brien ignored the implausible number of tests Dookhan ...


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