Garbage conclusory reports

One of the more frustrating things that criminal defense attorneys run into are garbage conclusory reports. One of the common misperceptions is that the lawyer for the accused gets information from the crime laboratory upon demand. This is not so. What we usually get can best be characterized as garbage conclusory reports. These garbage conclusory reports are characterized by a lack of actual data, a lack of noting what instrumental analysis was used, a lack of information concerning the validity of the assay, a lack of information surrounding the external/internal chain of custody, a lack of information about calibration, a lack of information about who conducted the analysis, a lack of information about UM, a lack of information concerning the analyst’s qualifications or some of the above or all of the above.

Basically, these garbage conclusory reports state an opinion, but it is couched as an absolute. It becomes a feature of trust, not science.

Forensic Science should be scientists, not used car salesmen
Forensic Science should be scientists, not used car salesmen

The following is an example of the typical text from the “Certificate of Analysis” reporting issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health: [This particular example is from the famous Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. 305 (2009) and was State’s trial Exhibit 10]

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Executive Office of Health and Human Services
Department of Public Health
State Laboratory Institute
305 South Street
Boston, MA 02130-3597

DATE RECEIVED: 11/19/2001
DATE ANALYZED: 11/28/2001

No. 615742
I hereby certify that the substance
Contained in 2 plastic bags MARKED: 615742
Submitted by P.O. FRANK MCDONOUGH of the

Has been examined with the following results:
The substance was found to contain:
Cocaine, a derivative of Coca leaves, as defined in
Chapter 94 C, Controlled Substance Act, Section 31,
Class B.

NET WEIGHT: 2.41 grams
Assistant Analysts Della Saunders Michael Lawler

Sworn and subscribed to before me on this day, 12-04-
01. I know the subscribers to be assistant analysis of
the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

My Commission Expires 8-25-06 _________/s/________

Chapter 111, Section 13 of the General Laws
This certificate shall be sworn to before a justice of the Peace or
Notary Public, and the jurat shall contain a statement that the
subscriber is an analyst or assistant analyst of the department.
When properly executed, it shall be prima facie evidence of the
composition, quality, and the net weight of the narcotic or other
drug, poison, medicine, or chemical analyzed, and the court shall
take judicial notice of the signature of the analyst or the assistant
analyst, and of the face that he/she is such.

Don’t believe me, here are some more examples just from the world of DUI:


Allegheny County PA


Central Valley Toxicology

Chema Tox



Fresno Laboratory




Los Angeles Police Department

Los Angeles Police Department2


Michigan 2

Michigan 3

NMS Labs

OC Crime Lab


Quest Labs

South Dakota

TRMC-Mineral King Laboratory







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