Southern California breaking news and trends

At the 9th Circuit: Court to decide whether cataloging DNA samples of certain arrestees is constitutional

Mercer 291


An illustration of the DNA double helix

California's database of DNA samples has grown to nearly 2 million since Proposition 69 went into effect in 2009. That law expanded DNA collection, including directing law enforcement to take cheek swabs from individuals arrested on suspicion of crimes like murder, attempted murder, and rape. 

The idea was to make California's database comprehensive and up the likelihood of solving cases involving DNA evidence, cold cases in particular. Since its implementation, the California Attorney General's office says the monthly rate of hits signaling a match between evidence and DNA profiles has doubled.

But critics wonder why it's necessary to take DNA samples from people who have merely been arrested for — rather than convicted of — crimes. And the ACLU of Nothern California will argue at the 9th Circuit on Wednesday that arrestees should not have to give DNA samples to law enforcement.


Ronald Reagan blood vial auction dries up

ronald reagan vial blood auction

AP Photo/PFCAuctions

A vial containing Ronald Reagan's dried blood residue. A Channel Islands online auction house has angered Ronald Reagan's foundation by claiming to offer a vial that once contained his blood. The auctioneers say it was used by the laboratory that tested Reagan's blood when he was hospitalized after a 1981 assassination attempt in Washington.

An auction listing for a vial purportedly containing the blood residue of Ronald Reagan had the late president's foundation seeing red.

The British auction house embroiled in the bloody mess halted the would-be sale, and the item's owner has agreed to donate the DNA in question to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation after they threatened legal action, says the L.A. Times.

"While we contend that the removal of the vial from the hospital laboratory and the U.S. auction sale in February 2012 were not legal acts in our opinion, we are grateful to the current custodian of the vial for this generous donation to the foundation ensuring President Reagan’s blood remains out of public hands," said John Huebusch, the foundation’s executive director.

According to the PFC Auctions house, the vial once contained a blood sample taken at  George Washington University Hospital when President Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, Jr. in 1981. 


Pioneering Caltech DNA researcher Roy Britten dies at 92

roy britten caltech dna pioneer

Photo of Roy Britten via

Roy John Britten, a pioneering Caltech DNA researcher and Princeton Ph.D nuclear physicist who switched fields to biophysics after working on the Manhattan Project, has died at age 92, Caltech officials announced Thursday.

A Caltech Distinguished Carnegie Senior Research Associate, Emeritus, and one-time adjunct professor at UC Irvine, Roy Britten continued to publish papers into his 90s, remaining active in the scientific community until his death on Jan. 21.

Beginning his academic career as a physicist, the "committed pacifist" who worked on the Manhattan Project in World War II was "always pleased to say that his particular project was a complete failure," his son said in a statement, notes the Pasadena Sun.

Interested in the fundamental characteristics of animal DNA, the Washington D.C. native arrived at Caltech's Kerckhoff Marine Laboratory in Corona del Mar in 1971 to study genomes.