Sara Kruzan, Sentenced as a Teenager to Life Without Parole, Asks Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for Her Release 16 Years Later
Sara Kruzan, who was just two months past her 16th birthday when she shot her 36-year-old pimp in 1994, has filed a clemency petition asking California Gov. Schwarzenegger to commute her life without parole sentence to time served. Now 32, Sara has spent half her life in prison, where she is a model prisoner and working toward a college degree.
The petition, filed yesterday by attorneys from the law firm of Perkins Coie and the National Center for Youth Law, seeks Sara’s release. Sara, the petition says, had no criminal record at the time of her crime and, in fact, had been an honor student who once served as student body president.
The man Sara shot, a pimp named “G.G.”, sexually assaulted her when she was just 11 years old. He then turned her onto the street as a prostitute at age 13. In addition to the abuse suffered at the hands of her eventual victim, Sara’s life was plagued with abuse from others: she was molested as a young child by other men, gang raped by men from her neighborhood at age 13, and endured physical and emotional abuse by her own mother.
In her clemency petition, Sara acknowledges that her past does not excuse what she did, and expresses deep remorse for her crime. “I feel a deep sorrow for taking [his] life. It is daily I experience a level of grief and sadness in my heart and in my thoughts,” Sara writes.
At the time of her sentencing, the California Youth Authority evaluated Sara and determined that she could be rehabilitated in the juvenile system, which would have resulted in her release at age 25. Instead, Sara was sentenced to serve the rest of her life in adult prison.
Two nationally-known experts who have recently evaluated Sara have concluded that she was suffering from the effects of what is known as intimate partner battering and the trauma of significant childhood abuse when she committed the crime.
Sara has become a model prisoner at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, CA. She expects to receive her college degree this Fall, and was named by correctional officers as the Honor Dorm “Woman of the Year” in 2009.
Sara’s story has won the support of individuals and organizations across California and the nation. Advocates seeking to eliminate juvenile life without parole sentences in the state and across the country have shared Sara’s story as a compelling example of how such an extreme sentence is unjust and cruel for children.
Sara’s clemency petition is based on the absence of expert testimony at trial explaining how Sara’s actions were affected by the years of abuse she endured, as well as on her youth at the time of the crime and her subsequent rehabilitation in prison. The decision of whether to grant Sara clemency rests solely with the Governor.
For more information:
– Fax or mail a letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger supporting Sara’s release – Watch an interview with Sara recorded in 2007
– Sara Kruzan’s Petition for Clemency(PDF)