How to Fix A Drug Scandal Review – Riveting as Shocking Judicial Abuse is Exposed

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How to Fix A Drug Scandal, a four-part Netflix original investigative series, exposes staggering twin drug testing scandals within the Massachusetts state crime lab testing centers, and the two chemists whose actions caused shock waves throughout the judicial system.

Directed by Eric Lee and produced by Alex Gibney, How to Fix a Drug Scandal unravels the story of Sonja Farak and Annie Dookan, two seemingly dedicated, hard-working, high achievers who for separate and unrelated motivations, compromised themselves and their integrity at the expense of the system they had agreed to uphold.

In episode one the groundwork is presented which details the arrest and background of Sonja Farak, who presents herself in testimony as a relatively normal child, strong, pioneering star athlete, valedictorian or her class, good daughter. In her senior year of college, she finds a job listed for the state drug lab in Amherst, which handled the drug testing for the western half of Massachusetts.

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She began what would be a nine-year tenure, daily testing confiscated substances determining if they were in fact the narcotic believed by the arresting officer. She was allegedly an exemplary employee, without any issues until one morning as she was testifying in court in a drug case a routine check of her lab station found evidence of tampering with the samples.

A quickie plea deal, Farak is sent to prison for 18 months, without cause for further investigation or consequence to the criminal justice system.

After all, as the story is told "This isn't the Annie Dookan case."

Annie Dookan, an ambitious, star athlete, first generation  immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago, who needed to be the best, and thought of as exemplary. She was the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave the crime lab at night. Working in the Hinton State lab in Boston, she tested nearly a 500 samples per month, which was five times the normal average. She was the most productive chemist on the team, well like by prosecutors, ADA's, and others.

As the story is presented, electronic correspondence is heavily relied on, and emails are shown which at the time appeared to be friendly, conversational, exchanges between Dookan and prosecutors. The veil is pulled back, layer by layer, and slowly it is shown that Dookan is selling a fictitious brand of herself to her colleagues, the ADA's, and all who interact with her.

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She is fabricating academic achievements, and personal relationships. Suddenly she set her sights on an ADA, sending and fabricating false email correspondences between alleged girlfriends which set the fictitious relationship in place. The ADA left his position as his reputation was irreparably injured and his objectivity and legal responsibility came into question.

Finally, Dookan was arrested for what was called "dry-labbing" which she produced and attested to findings by sight without chemical analysis. She was also sentenced in a plea deal.

Throughout the episodes the director introduces those who had been convicted through the shoddy testing procedures and sent to prison. Most were minorities, marginalized, without a voice, and without education or funding to advance any appeal or investigation.

Enter the defense attorneys.

As it were, two believers in the system, champions of justice, are featured as they try to have the Massachusetts Attorney General's office release the documents in the Farak case. It wasn't until the plea deal was made and no open case was pending that a single defense attorney, a dogged and diligent, decided to give it one more shot. In addition to finding more evidence of extensive drug use, by Farak, he eventually finds emails which provide insight into the fellow attorney's feelings about him. They were typical backbiting, bitchy, responses, based on feelings.

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By this time both women had served their sentences and were released. As they both accepted plea deals, they could be called to testify. It is at this time the scope of the drug abuse problem with Farak became known. Not simply two cases but more than nine years of cases.

So, by 2013 when the Massachusetts State Police arrested her for tampering with evidence, they found that was only the beginning. As criminal lab testing facilities have pure samples of every narcotic available through her personal sworn testimony Farak, from nearly day one of her nine-year tenure, had tried them all.

In addition to re-creations of Farak's compelling grand jury testimony and interviews with attorneys and experts, we hear from Farak's family for the first time, delving deep into how the actions of one crime lab employee can impact tens of thousands of lives.

It isn't just the chemist who contribute to this cover up and sham, it becomes the very system that is expected to be objective. It is also discovered the female attorneys involved in prosecuting the state's case against Farak were found to have committed a fraud on the court.

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How to Fix a Drug Scandal is absorbing with recreations from Farak's grand jury testimony, interviews from attorneys and journalists covering the case, actual news footage, Farak's family as well as those who stood to gain their freedom from falsified results. The series reveals, in actuality, how power and privilege clash and how the system will hide its own unless those who guard it demand, with relentless pursuit, that all be held accountable under the same law.

How to Fix a Drug Scandal premieres on Netflix April 1, 2020. See it.

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