Attorney McShane to speak at 2012 AAFS Seminar-Atlanta, GA

According to its website:

For sixty-three years, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) has served a distinguished and diverse membership. Its 6,260 members are divided into eleven sections spanning the forensic enterprise. Included among the Academy’s members are physicians, attorneys, dentists, toxicologists, physical anthropologists, document examiners, digital evidence experts, psychiatrists, physicists, engineers, criminalists, educators, digital evidence experts, and others. Representing all 50 United States, Canada, and 62 other countries worldwide, they actively practice forensic science and, in many cases, teach and conduct research in the field as well. Each section provides opportunities for professional development, personal contacts, awards, and recognition. Many sections publish periodic newsletters and mailings which keep their members abreast of activities and developments in their field.

As a professional society dedicated to the application of science to the law, the AAFS is committed to the promotion of education and the elevation of accuracy, precision, and specificity in the forensic sciences. It does so via the Journal of Forensic Sciences (its internationally recognized scientific journal), newsletters, its annual scientific meeting, the conduct of seminars and meetings, and the initiation of actions and reactions to various issues of concern. For its members and affiliates, AAFS provides placement services as well as scientific reference studies. As the world’s most prestigious forensic science organization, the AAFS represents its membership to the public and serves as the focal point for public information concerning the forensic science profession. Founded in 1948, the AAFS is headquartered in Colorado Springs, CO.

The Academy’s annual scientific meeting is held in February at which time over 800 scientific papers, breakfast seminars, workshops, and other special events are presented. The AAFS consists of eleven sections representing a wide range of forensic specialties, and the annual scientific meeting gathers these professionals who present the most current information, research, and updates in this expanding field. The AAFS 64th Annual Scientific Meeting will be held in Atlanta, GA at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis Hotel, February 20-25, 2012.

California attorneys Richard Middlebrook, Jeremy Brehmer and I will be presenting a twenty minute oral presentation regarding our research into whether or not crime laboratories are “open” as science would dictate or closeted.

Here is our abstract:

Are state crime laboratories truly open as science dictates or are they closed?

by Justin J. McShane, J.D.*[1], Richard Middlebrook, J.D.*[2], and Jeremy Brehmer, J.D.*[3]

After attending the presentation, attendees will appreciate the conflict between science-related decisions and policy-related administrative decisions made by a crime laboratory as to its desire to be transparent in its process and its data reporting.

At previous AAFS meetings the assertion has been made that “crime laboratories are open” and that the criminal defense attorneys “only needs to ask” to be allowed in to look, inspect and obtain data. This assertion was primarily made by analysts and was contrary to the anecdotal experience of many criminal defense attorneys. This study tests the validity of this assertion made by these analysts.

A testable hypothesis was put forward that the various state crime laboratories are open. In keeping with the scientific method, an experiment was designed to falsify the hypothesis in hopes that the information obtained will lead to greater openness of the laboratories and cooperation between the forensic science community and the criminal defense community.

The authors designed a policy-related experiment to examine the degree of openness of the various types of state crime laboratories that conduct testing and calibration services for those suspected of committing intoxication related offenses.

A standardized letter was sent to heads of crime laboratories in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. The authors identified themselves as criminal defense attorneys who practice DUI defense. The letter asked the following:
1.      Will you grant us a tour of your laboratory?

2.      Will you allow us to take pictures of your laboratory?
3.      Will you give to us a current uncontrolled copy of your policy, procedures and instructions used for blood ethanol analysis?
4.      Will you give us evidence of the validation of your assay and method? If not, why not?
5.      Will you grant us an interview (no more than 30 minutes) with your most proficient analyst who routinely performs blood alcohol analysis?

Data collected included:
1.      Date the letter was sent;
2.      Date the letter was received (tracked by certified letter, return receipt requested with restricted delivery);
3.      The date of the response (if any);
4.      The nature of the response.

5.      The follow through with any commitments the laboratory made as to the requests of one through five above.

The substantive responses to the above five requests and the actual fulfillment of any commitments that were made related to the five requests above were compiled. This data was collected and analyzed by the authors for the edification of the forensic science and legal defense communities and to enhance their spirit of cooperation. The authors intend on presenting a fact-based, data-driven presentation that outlines the findings of the above. The underlying raw data will be available for attendees to review.

This presentation will help focus the debate between those who are in favor of transparency and those who are not. The impact to the forensic science community is to provide data to sharpen and highlight this debate. The National Research Council’s work “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path For­ward” in recommendation #4 recommended that forensic science ser­vices be removed from the admin­is­tra­tive con­trol of law enforce­ment agen­cies and pros­e­cu­tors’ offices. To date, this is the first formal and systemic experiment that tests this apparent divergence of thoughts and whether or not this recommendation #4 is a sound one.


Keywords: transparency of crime laboratories, administrative control of crime laboratories, NAS recommendation #4

[1] Corresponding author; Associate member AAFS-Jurisprudence; The McShane Firm, LLC, 3601 Vartan Way, 2nd Floor, Harrisburg, PA 17110; Tel: 717-657-3900; Email:

[2] Pending application with AAFS-Jurisprudence, 5201 California Avenue, Suite 450, Bakersfield, CA 93309

[3] Pending application with AAFS-Jurisprudence, 5201 California Avenue, Suite 450, Bakersfield, CA 93309

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