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News Scan

Computer Errors in California Lead to Violent Prisoners Being Wrongly Released: Jack Dolan of the Los Angeles Times reports computer errors prompted California prison officials to mistakenly release as unsupervised parolees an estimated 450 inmates with "a high risk of violence" and more than 1,000 additional prisoners presenting a high risk of committing drug, property, and other crimes. The prisoners were placed on non-revocable parole, a status intended for inmates judged to be at a very low risk of re-offending, are not required to report to a parole officer and can only be sent back to prison if they are caught committing a crime. The program was started in January 2010 to ease overcrowding and let parole officers focus on the supervision of higher-risk parolees. State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), a former prosecutor who requested the investigation from the inspector general, says if the state can't properly identify who is eligible for an unsupervised parole program, "how can the public have confidence they can release 33,000 felons safely?"

Texas Bill to Address Backlog of Untested Rape Kits: Brian New of KENS 5 (TX) reports a bill awaiting signature from Texas Governor Rick Perry will require all rape kits to be tested, a move some state lawmakers are heralding as long awaited justice for thousands of rape victims in Texas. Many law enforcement agencies in the state contend there is little benefit to testing rape kits where the suspect is known, but Lynn Blanco with the San Antonio Rape Crisis Center said the benefit to testing all kits is the potential of catching a serial rapist. Each kit costs about a thousand dollars to be tested, and it is still unknown where the Texas Department of Public Safety will get its funding to pay for the tests.

New Hampshire Bill Would Expand Death Penalty to Include Home Invasion Murder: Garry Rayno of the New Hampshire Union Leader reports a bill approved by the state Senate Judiciary Committee that will go to vote in the Senate next week would expand the state's death penalty to include murder committed during a burglary or attempted burglary in an occupied structure. The bill is named for Kimberly Cates, who was murdered in 2009 home invasion. Sen. Jim Luther (R-Hollis) said that the expansion of the death penalty is warranted because it addresses murder committed in a person's home, a very sensitive location.  

Cats' DNA Helps Catch Abusers: Andy Newman of The New York Times has this story about the first convictions in New York City using animal DNA. In the case of Scruffy, a 1-year-old tabby also known as Tommy Two Times who was so badly burned he had to be put down, burnt tissue found in a vacant room was matched to a sample from Scruffy. In the case of Madea, found badly beaten, an investigator noticed a suspicious umbrella and dried cat saliva was matched to the cat. Only a handful of similar cases have been won in the U.S., although in many cases the existence of DNA evidence encourages defendants to plead guilty.  

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