Gov. Deval Patrick has announced formation of a special unit to sort through tens of thousands of criminal cases that may have been compromised by the mishandling of drug evidence in a now-closed state laboratory. The governor on Thursday named attorney David Meier to head the so-called 'boiler room' operation. Meier is a former prosecutor in Middlesex and Suffolk counties. Patrick said in a statement that the unit will be a ``clearinghouse'' for information on cases impacted by the mishandling of evidence at the Boston lab, which was formerly operated by the Department of Public Health. Officials estimate as many as 30,000 drug cases statewide, could be jeopardized.

Bristol County prosecutors say they could be facing problems with as many as 4,000 cases. Authorities have blamed the problems on a single chemist, Annie Dookhan, but have not said exactly what she is accused of doing or cited a possible motive.

[Via Associated Press]