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Judge Rules Man, 70, Must Return to California to Finish Life Term

April 19, 2001|From Associated Press

A judge ruled Wednesday that a 70-year-old man freed from an Oregon prison by the governor 27 years ago must return to California, where authorities want him to finish a life sentence for the 1963 murder of a highway patrolman.

Lane County Circuit Judge Bryan P. Hodges rejected arguments that an ailing Robert Lee Burns should remain free because he wasn't a fugitive and that California lacked jurisdiction over Burns after failing to follow through on attempts to return him to prison.

Burns, who has cancer, said a doctor has told him he has only two years to live, and he hoped the California parole board might grant his release for health reasons.

Burns was sentenced to life in 1964 after one of his partners in a Sacramento bank robbery shot and killed a California highway patrolman outside Truckee, Calif.

Burns served only 4 1/2 years in California before he was transferred to Oregon to serve out the remainder of the robbery sentence. Oregon authorities deemed him fully rehabilitated. Then-Gov. Robert Straub refused in 1974 to send him back to California to finish his murder sentence.

Burns was arrested Jan. 4 after his name came up on a computer list.

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