California woman who killed pimp at age 16 set to be freed

LOS ANGELES Mon Oct 28, 2013 8:10pm EDT

Sara Kruzan, 35, is seen in a handout photo from the California Department of Corrections taken July 8, 2013. REUTERS/California Department of Corrections/Handout

Sara Kruzan, 35, is seen in a handout photo from the California Department of Corrections taken July 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/California Department of Corrections/Handout

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California woman who has served nearly two decades in prison for murdering her pimp when she was 16, becoming the face of a campaign to reform the treatment of young offenders, could be freed this week after Governor Jerry Brown upheld her parole.

The impending release of Sara Kruzan, now 35, from the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla was hailed as a watershed moment by activists who have fought on her behalf for more than five years.

"This is a huge victory," said state Senator Leland Yee, who called Kruzan the poster child for a bill that became law this year allowing offenders sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed before age 18 the chance to petition for a new hearing on their sentence.

"She really epitomizes why it's so important to review a lot of these cases where kids are sentenced to life without the possibility of parole," Yee, a Democrat from San Francisco, told Reuters in an interview.

Kruzan, who advocates say was raised by an abusive, drug-addicted single mother, said in a 2009 Human Rights Watch video that she was sexually assaulted at age 11 by the man she would later kill.

Within two years, George Howard had her working as a child prostitute. In March 1994, two months after her 16th birthday, she shot him to death in a motel room in Riverside, California.

Kruzan lost a bid to stand trial as a juvenile and was found guilty of first-degree murder by a Riverside County jury. A judge sentenced her to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Human Rights Watch video, in which she is seen expressing remorse for the crime and describing her grim life as a prostitute, drew widespread attention to her case.

The year after the video was released, then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted her prison sentence to 25 years to life, making her eligible to be considered for parole.

Earlier this year, the California Board of Parole Hearings found her suitable for release, sending their recommendation to Brown, who notified the board on Monday that he would not intervene to stop her from being released.

A spokesman for Brown said the governor would have no comment on the matter.

Yee said it was Kruzan's story that prompted him to author his bill and fight for its passage.

"She has freely admitted the calculated way in which she killed her pimp," he said. "I think anybody in their right mind would probably do the same. She did something that's horrible and she had to pay price. But she has turned her life around."

California prisons spokesman Luis Patino said Kruzan would likely be freed sometime within the next five days but that details of her release would be kept secret for her safety and that of the public.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Cynthia Osterman)

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Comments (4)
Overcast451 wrote:
This is why prostitution should be legalized. The girls in the streets – are slaves to the ‘pimps’. The slimy customers; will be slimy customers either way. If it was legal – you could make the customers ‘register’ and control the ‘services’.

Then if it’s done on the street – lock up the hooker and the john for 5 years.

However; this part is humorous.. “But she has turned her life around.”

How would you know? Our prison system doesn’t allow for that – she was simply jailed with no options. Our prison system could be made to attempt to reform people, but in reality – it’s a profit center for politicians and others who own the companies that things like healthcare in the prisons get ‘outsourced’ to. They lock them up, treat them sub-human and then let them go; knowing no ‘reform’ has taken place – of course, the prison system needs ‘repeat customers’ to keep the profits rolling in.

That or some asinine phone card company raping the inmates and their families for a call.

But I hope this lady goes against the grain and reforms her life for real.

Oct 29, 2013 10:36am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Duffman wrote:
I think killing a pimp should get you a medal, not a prison term.

Oct 29, 2013 1:54pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
The ‘legal’ issue of this girl’s history and fate is essentially a matter of the preponderance of perspective, in any given moment, v.s. any subsequent accountability.

That is to say that reality and/or history are created and/or altered by the “controlling perspective” of the pertinent moment. How could George Washington have been both a British traitor and anyone’s “hero?” Why isn’t Edward Snowden the 21st Century version of Paul Revere; crying: “… or three if by Internet!” It’s all a function of perspective v.s. power v.s. moment – and most importantly, so long as people are involved, the associated “passion,” or lack thereof.

Without the “power” of the “perspective” of the news (mass) media (and consequent public outrage), “Watergate” would never have been a significant issue – then, or now. Everybody knows that the President, Richard Nixon, was forced to resign – and why. But, lacking “perspective” (news media coverage) who knew then – or currently knows or cares – that in the subsequent legal “Watergate” proceedings, Hillary Clinton was fired over a certain “ethics” issue? Perspective v.s. power v.s. moment. Come 2016, after forty years, what effect could “Watergate” yet have on history?

In a more common “perspective” example, during a traffic stop, a cop “perceives” a driver reaching for “something;” and he then shoots the driver – later citing his conviction that (in the acclaimed moment) the driver was reaching for a gun; and that he was certain that his life was in danger.

Assuming that the cop’s claim was valid in the moment (as only he and God could ever be certain), he might have felt 100% justified in his own mind; and in the eyes of God.

After the fact, however, the cop is soon subject to the judgments (“perspectives”) of the world; but particularly to the “power” of the justice system. Thereafter, regardless of the outcome, he’s still at the mercy of the eyes and minds of whomever later voices their “perspective.” Even if acquitted, will the cop be re-tried by the “feds,” because of the political “power” of public outrage (perspective and passion)?

To the example cop’s favor, the American justice system, “power” rarely allows members of the “legal system” to be prosecuted – especially cops. When cops are prosecuted, they are almost always first condemned for being stupid – for their deed; and for having been “caught.” However, being stupid and getting “caught” carries no guarantee of anyone, including a cop, being prosecuted – prosecution requires the element of “power” and the peripheral controlling politics, aka, “passion.”

In the case of this girl (slavery and sex aside), from what can be learned from TV, we all know that any woman/girl forced into prostitution faces a reasonable probability of death by a variety of means – including violence, drug addiction and/or AIDS.

Pimps have been playing the ‘street’ version of “reasonable doubt” forever. Had the girl called the police, with the undeniable probability of her Mom telling cops that her daughter is just being rebellious; what cop could have intervened? The girl’s only reasonable estimate in such a scenario would have been that the Mom would claim that the “alleged pimp” wasn’t “pimping;” he was her boyfriend – and just happens to be a known pimp. How would a cop know that the mom was dependent upon the pimp for her drugs? When it comes to law enforcement, “reasonable assumptions” aren’t actionable, in such cases.

So, the girl was left on her own. In the particular scenario, did the girl “… fear for her life?” She probably and legitimately did, even though death was not imminent – however probable. Only she can say; as in the case of the “cop” example. Can any truly reasonable person doubt her?

In terms of the law, did the girl “legally” have sufficient and reasonable ‘cause’ to fear for her life? Again, only she can say. The vital ‘test’ is in the “perspective” of anyone else – having “power.”

In the example of the traffic cop, did he actually see a gun? If he did, did he actually know if it was loaded; or that there was a live round in front of the firing pin? Is it possible that the gun could have been loaded with blanks? Did his estimate of the available time to make the critical decision be compared to this girl’s available time to estimate her probable fate, decide and act?

In the girl’s trial, there can be no doubt that “alternate solutions” were presented as being available to her – therefore, she didn’t “deserve” to be treated as a “fortunate survivor.”

Back to “perspective” and “power.”

The girl was charged with murder, as an “adult;” regardless of her age. But, it’s only reasonable to ask why she wasn’t comparably charged with “adult” prostitution. Was she a prostitute; or a child sex slave? “Procedurally,” was the question allowed to be raised? Conversely, if all the associated adult customers had only casual sex with her, would she ever be considered as an adult? What “perspective” did “power” allow to be presented or considered at her trial?

In the middle ground of examples, if a 16 year-old girl manages to kill a man during a kidnapping attempt, would anyone charge her with murder? How could she have been reasonably and “legally” certain that her life was imminently or ultimately in danger? Or, if the same girl later killed her kidnapper, to achieve her escape; would she be charged with murder?

Now, this girl’s case has become a function of the “power” of public “perspective” (opinion.) Certainly, a lot of legal/technical “perspectives” are available. But, looking to the element of “human experience” and the universally accepted norms and expectations of “human nature,” how many can condemn the girl with a clear conscience? None of us were in her shoes. It’s no accident that the justice system isn’t a function of a collective of computer algorithms.

If the girl was any kind of loathsome murderess, deserving her original prison sentence; it’s worth asking why she didn’t also kill her ‘enabling’ Mom. But, that’s just one person’s “perspective.”

Nov 01, 2013 8:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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