Op-ed: Brown Should Release Kruzan From Prison
July 1, 2011 - Every year, hundreds of prisoners ask for a pardon from the governor. This year, one case stands out as one of the most worthy in California's history.
In 1994, Sara Kruzan was sentenced to life without parole at the age of 16. Now 33, Sara was recently granted clemency by outgoing California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Sara Kruzan grew up in Riverside, California. She was raised by her mother, who was addicted to drugs and abusive toward Sara. She has met her father only three times in her life because he has been in prison serving time for serious felony convictions. Since the age of 9, Sara has suffered from severe depression for which she has been hospitalized several times. She has attempted suicide on multiple occasions.
At age 11, Sara was sexually assaulted by a 31-year-old man named G.G. When she was 13, he turned Sara onto the street as a prostitute.
Sara was just two months past her sixteenth birthday when she shot and killed G.G. At the time of her sentencing, the California Youth Authority evaluated Sara and determined that she was “amenable to the training and treatment” the juvenile system offers. She had never been arrested before, and had been an honor student and student body president.
Instead of being placed in the juvenile system, which would have resulted in her release at the age of 25, she was sentenced to serve the rest of her life in adult prison.
Sara is now 32 and has spent half her life in prison. On September 28, 2010, she petitioned California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for clemency.
Two nationally known experts who 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'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. She writes, “The woman I am today is … capable of making healthy choices for myself. … Today I can and do lead a life of example for others.”
The decision of whether to grant Sara clemency rests solely with the Governor.