Massachusetts public health commissioner John Auerbach has stepped down in the wake of scandal. His department was in charge of a crime lab in Jamaica Plain where a chemist allegedly mishandled thousands of drug samples. Officials announced his resignation on Sept. 17.

In a statement, Auerbach said, “It is clear that there was insufficient quality monitoring, reporting and investigating on the part of supervisors and managers surrounding the former Department of Public Health drug lab in Jamaica Plain — and ultimately, as commissioner, the buck stops with me”

According to state estimates, the debacle at the crime lab could jeopardize up to 34,000 convictions. Basic evidence in drug cases going back 10 years is now being called into question. Prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, the Department of Parole and the Department of Youth Services are combing through their files from the past decade, trying to determine every case the chemist was involved in. The process could take years.

Gov. Deval Patrick has suggested this is a huge mess. 

“You don’t want me to be on tape with what my first reaction was," he said. "This is a very serious thing. And we’re taking it very seriously and I think everybody is pulling together to make sure we get to the bottom of every one of these 34,000 cases, find out where these people are and do justice by them and we're going to do that as quickly as we can.”

Patrick also issued a statement about Auerbach’s resignation, saying the failures at the drug lab were acute but not representative of the whole of Auerbach’s work.