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Effrum Burnett

‘A man paid the price for it with his life’: Prosecutor blasts judge’s decision to dismiss prior ‘strikes’ against man now convicted of murder

Convicted murderer Effrum Burnett should not have been out on the streets based on prior convictions but judge erroneously dismissed strikes, prosecutor says. (Orange County Jail)

Following the murder conviction of a man who stabbed another man to death, a California prosecutor is criticizing a judge’s prior decision to dismiss the suspect’s two previous “strikes” that would have led to a 25-years-to-life prison sentence upon his third conviction. Because the strikes were dismissed, the suspect remained on the streets after the third conviction and committed a murder, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a scathing statement.

“We warned the Court that this individual’s serious and violent criminal history posed too great of a risk to public safety, and he should not have been allowed to participate in a program in which his past criminal behavior excluded him from eligibility,” Spitzer said in a statement. “The Legislature and the Courts are continuing to allow more and more dangerous and violent criminals into these programs at great risk to public safety. Judges must balance the potential benefits with protecting public safety, and there are cases where the facts and the criminal history simply cannot be ignored. This is one of those cases and a man paid the price for it with his life.”

An Orange County jury on Tuesday convicted Effrum Maland Burnett, 53, of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Toye Mim Jones, 50, outside an Anaheim sober living home. According to prosecutors, Burnett, Christina Roberts — who was a friend of Burnett — and Jones and another man on July 18 drove to the home in the 9500 block of Canton Avenue to pick up a truck Roberts claimed was hers.

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    The Los Angeles Times reported Roberts had told Burnett that Jones had drugged and raped her and stole her truck. But that wasn’t true, prosecutors said.

    While trying to take the truck, Jones “angrily confronted” Roberts. The confrontation turned physical and Burnett began fighting Jones. Jones went inside but a few minutes later came back outside and confronted Burnett, hitting him in the eye, prosecutors said. Burnett then stabbed Jones five times in the face, armpit, groin, abdomen and chest, prosecutors said. Paramedics rushed Jones to the hospital where doctors later pronounced him dead.

    Burnett claimed self-defense, but the jury didn’t buy his argument. Prosecutors said the murder was about Burnett seeking “revenge” against Jones about the false rape, the Times reported. He faces up to life in prison when he’s sentenced on July 29.

    Burnett has two prior convictions for kidnapping and robbery in Los Angeles County, prosecutors say. In 2018, Burnett was facing felony charges for robbery and kidnapping. Based on the two prior convictions, Burnett was facing a 25-years-to-life prison sentence due to the controversial “three strikes and you’re out” law. However, Spitzer said Burnett requested — and a judge eventually granted — his first two strikes be dismissed despite the objections of prosecutors.

    The California Three Strikes law, enacted three decades ago, imposes a 25-years-to-life prison sentence for three convictions of “serious” or “violent” felonies. These felonies include residential burglary, robbery, kidnapping, murder and most sex offenses, among other charges. The law is controversial because in some cases it can punish people convicted of less serious offenses such as small-time thieves and drug users with disproportionate prison sentences related to the crime.

    In order to dismiss his strikes, a judge allowed Burnett to participate in the Orange County Superior Court’s Whatever It Takes (WIT) program. The 18-month program if for offenders who have been diagnosed with chronic or persistent mental health problems or homelessness.

    “The participants must have a diagnosis of schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, or major depressive disorder. The program involves frequent court appearances, regular drug and alcohol testing, meetings with the WIT Court support team, and direct access to specialized services,” the court’s website said.

    The court provides mental counseling, residential treatment and family counseling. But Spitzer claims that Burnett was not eligible for program at the time based on his prior convictions. Spitzer said prosecutors urged the court to not allow Burnett to participate in the program. Upon completion of the program, the judge dismissed the two prior convictions in December 2020.

    Spitzer did not name the judge. A spokesman for the Orange County Superior Court declined to comment.

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    The post ‘A man paid the price for it with his life’: Prosecutor blasts judge’s decision to dismiss prior ‘strikes’ against man now convicted of murder first appeared on Law & Crime.