National Center for Youth Law

Press Releases

Governor Grants Clemency to Sara Kruzan; Kruzan’s Life Without Possibility of Parole Sentence Commuted


Patricia Arthur, National Center for Youth Law

Marc Boman, Perkins Coie

Jan. 3, 2011 – Sara Kruzan, who was sentenced to life without parole for killing her 37-year-old pimp when she was 16, was granted clemency by outgoing California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Governor reduced Sara’s sentence to 25 years to life, allowing the possibility of parole. Sara, now 33, has spent over 16 years in prison.

Sara is not now eligible for parole. She must serve additional time to complete more of her new sentence. The exact amount of time before she’s eligible for parole is not yet known.

“Sara is grateful to the Governor for commuting her sentence,” said Pat Arthur, an attorney with the National Center for Youth Law and a member of Sara’s legal team. “In  his commutation statement, Governor Schwarzenegger recognized that Sara’s sentence of life without possibility of parole was excessive because of her young age at the time of the crime and the significant abuse she endured. Sara will continue to do everything possible to return to society as soon as possible.”

Sara was just two months past her 16th birthday when she shot and killed George Howard. She has spent more than half her life in prison, where she is a model prisoner and has earned her associates degree. She was named by correctional officers as the Honor Dorm “Woman of the Year” in 2009.

Howard sexually assaulted Sara and then turned her onto the street as a prostitute when she was just 13. In addition to the abuse suffered at the hands of Howard, Sara’s life was plagued with physical, sexual and emotional abuse from others. 

Sara’s clemency petition was based, in part, 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 by her youth at the time and her subsequent rehabilitation in prison.

In his statement, Schwarzenegger acknowledged the evaluations of Sara by two nationally-known experts who concluded that she was suffering from the effects of what is known as intimate partner battering and the trauma of significant childhood abuse at the time.

“Considering Ms. Kruzan’s age at the time of the offense, and given the abuse she suffered at Mr. Howard’s hands from age 11 to 16, her sentence (of life without parole) is disproportionate,” the Governor said.

Sara’s story has won the support of individuals and organizations across the county. Advocates seeking to eliminate juvenile life without parole sentences have shared Sara’s story as a compelling example of how such an extreme sentence is unjust.

Sara acknowledged remorse in her clemency. “I feel a deep sorrow for taking [George Howards’s] life. It is daily I experience a level of grief and sadness in my heart and in my thoughts.” Sara is grateful to the Governor and her many supporters.