CA bill aims to keep funding flowing to solve crime and missing persons cases with DNA

Leticia Juarez Image
Tuesday, March 5, 2024
New CA bill aims to keep funding flowing to solve crime using DNA
California's Proposition 69 has made it possible to use DNA to solve a variety of cases, but the funds are in danger of drying up.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KABC) -- DNA testing has become key in solving many different crimes, but the funds that make that possible in California will dry up unless state lawmakers take action.

California voters in 2004 approved Proposition 69, dubbed the DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act. The ballot measure was the results of Bruce Harrington's drive to find the person who murdered his brother, Keith, and sister-in-law Patrice in 1980.

"We've always believed, at least for many years, that this case would begin and end with DNA," Tony Rackauckas said in 2018 when he was Orange County District Attorney.

Rackauckas was talking about the Golden State Killer, who had managed to escape justice for 40 years until technology unlocked clues in his genetic genealogy through DNA and identified him as Joseph James DeAngelo.

Prosecutors said that DNA from ancestry websites led to the arrest of the suspected "Golden State Killer," Joseph James DeAngelo.

Proposition 69 may have helped law enforcement solve the cold case, but this year funding for it will sunset unless state lawmakers approve Assembly Bill 3042.

"This bill will eliminate the sunset, establish a permanent steady source of revenue to support DNA programs like the ones housed in DOJ's Bureau of Forensic Services," California State Attorney General Rob Bonta said Monday.

Bonta is sponsoring the bill authored by Assemblymember Stephanie Nguyen.

Currently, Prop. 69 provides $12 million a year for state and public crime labs. The funding is generated by criminal fines allocated toward the state's DNA Data Bank under the Bureau of Forensic Services.

"Our programs use this technology to do many things: identifying missing persons, solving child abduction cases, analyzing rape and sexual assault evidence kits, helping local law enforcement identify samples collected at crime scenes," Bonta said.

And that's not all. The state's forensic lab has also helps to exonerate those wrongfully convicted of a crime.

Then there is the Missing Persons DNA Program, which has brought closure to families of the missing.

"Certainly, there is nothing celebratory about this work but the fact that we have identified over 2,000 missing persons is meaningful," Bonta said. "It's a reminder what we can accomplish for the people of California when we have the appropriate resources."

In the journey for justice, a state or public crime lab may be able to unlock a clue.