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News Scan

LAPD Finally Analyzes All 6,132 Untested DNA Rape Kits:  The Los Angeles Police Department announced it has finally cleared its decade-long 6,000 rape kit DNA backlog.  The evidence sat untouched in LAPD storage freezers for years as the department's understaffed lab fell way behind.  The backlog was cleared after police officials gathered several million dollars in federal grants, public funds, and private donations to cover the costs of outsourcing the DNA testing to private labs.  The testing revealed 1,000 matches between DNA profiles found in the rape kits and those stored in the databases.  However, in several of the cases, the person identified by the DNA match had already been convicted.  The LAPD's lab has doubled in size to 78 people and city officials would like to add another 20 to handle almost all of the department's DNA testing.  "Today, we pledge to never let justice wait like this again," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said at a City Hall news conference with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and other elected officials. "For every sexual assault evidence kit, there is an individual -- a mother, a daughter, a friend -- who rightfully deserves justice. We recognize that there is still a lot of work to accomplish."  Joel Rubin of the Los Angeles Times has this story.

Inmates Sue Over Race-Based Prison Lockdowns:
  Several attorneys representing inmates in a class-action lawsuit say California's use of race as a basis for locking prisoners in their cells after fights leads to illegal discrimination and should be banned.  The non-profit Prison Law Office said in its lawsuit that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation unfairly punishes inmates simply because they have the same color skin as those involved in the violence.  A spokeswoman for the CDCR, Terry Thornton, said lockdowns are necessary to protect the safety and security of inmates and staff and that it's not the department's policy to base lockdowns solely on race or ethnicity.  However, a proposed revision to the department's lockdown policy acknowledges that inmates often organize themselves based on race and some inmates who are uninvolved may be affected, but its the department's goal to get them back to a normal routine as quickly as possible.  In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a similar argument and told the state to end its policy on housing-inmates based on their race because such race-based policies encourages violence.  The AP has this story.

Alleged Serial Killer Wants to Defend Himself:  San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer Justin Berton reports the 77-year-old man charged with murdering four Northern California women over 17 years told a Marin County judge Wednesday that he wants to serve as his own defense attorney.  Joseph Naso told Superior Court Judge Andrew Sweet, "I have a lot of experience representing myself during proceedings...and I've done well-I've prevailed," referring to lawsuits he had contested and a court battle over the guardianship of one of his sons.  Naso was scheduled to enter a plea Wednesday but after he was told he was ineligible for public assistance because his assets amounted to nearly one million dollars, Naso spent the morning arguing to represent himself.  Judge Sweet gave Naso a seven-page document to test his knowledge on legal terms and courtroom rules.  He also told Naso that once he chooses to represent himself, he cannot hire a private attorney in midtrial.  Naso asked, "Why not?"  "This is a good example of why you don't understand the law," Sweet fired back.  "And I'm not going to explain it to you."  Sweet is scheduled to rule on Naso's request Thursday.

A "Terror Gap" in Our Nation's Gun Laws:
  Federal law permitted more than 200 people with suspected ties to terrorism to buy firearms in 2010.  The 247 people even went through background checks upon purchasing their firearms.  Roughly the same number of people with suspected ties to terrorism successfully purchased guns in 2009 as well.  New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg is trying to change the law to keep weapons from being sold to alleged terrorists.  The terror watch list's secrecy has made it difficult to close what Lautenberg calls a "terror gap" in our nation's gun laws.  AP writer Eileen Sullivan has this story.

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