|For Immediate Release
December 21, 2012
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff
FIRST ORANGE COUNTY THREE-STRIKES DEFENDANT ORDERED RELEASED UNDER PROP 36 OVER OBJECTION OF OCDA
SANTA ANA – The first Orange County Three-Strikes defendant to be resentenced under Proposition 36 (Prop 36) was ordered released today over the objection of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA). Inmate/Defendant Dirk John Thomas, 51, filed a petition in Superior Court for consideration for resentencing. The defendant was serving a 25 year to life sentence stemming from a 1996 possession of stolen property conviction (see below).
Superior Court Judge Richard Toohey resentenced Thomas to six years in state prison, for which he received credit for time served, and the defendant was ordered to be released from the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad.
Assistant District Attorney Ted Burnett vigorously opposed Thomas’ resentencing on behalf of the OCDA, arguing that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Thomas has a lengthy criminal history (see below), in which he repeatedly commits crimes every time he is released from prison and various courts have warned that the defendant is a danger to the community. In addition to his many convictions, Thomas confessed to police and probation officers in 1989 that he had committed over 100 burglaries and thefts, for which he had not been caught. The People argued that the defendant’s past history makes him an unreasonable risk to the public and his 25 year to life sentence is appropriate based on his demonstrated propensity for committing crimes while free in the community and failure to cease the criminal behavior despite repeated punishment by imprisonment.
What is Prop 36?
In 1994, California voters passed the Three Strikes Law, which allowed state courts to impose a sentence of 25 years to life in prison for defendants convicted of two prior serious or violent felonies upon conviction of a new felony offense. As Three Strikes sentencing is imposed at the discretion of the presiding judge, less than 10 percent of defendants eligible to be sentenced under Three Strikes in Orange County received the 25 year to life sentence.
On Nov. 6, 2012, Prop 36 passed in California, limiting the Three Strikes Law primarily to only offenders who had been convicted of “serious or violent” offenses as their most recent offense. Defendants who committed two violent offenses before committing a non-violent felony offense may be eligible. This proposition, among other things, authorizes re-sentencing for defendants currently serving Third-Strike life sentences if the defendant files a petition and the judge opines that resentencing does not pose an unreasonable danger to the public. To date, the OCDA has received 73 petitions for resentencing under Prop 36.
Thomas’ Criminal Background
Thomas has a lengthy criminal history, demonstrating an inability to follow the law.