National Center for Youth Law

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NCYL Seeks Release of Sara Kruzan, Sentenced to Life in Prison at Age 16

Attorneys from the law firm of Perkins Coie, with NCYL’s assistance, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in California’s Court of Appeal seeking the release of Sara Kruzan. Ms. Kruzan is serving a life without parole sentence for shooting her then 36-year-old pimp when she was 16.  The pimp had sexually abused Sara since age 11 and began trafficking her as a prostitute when she was 13.

The petition, filed April 7,2010, challenges Ms. Kruzan’s conviction and sentence under California Penal Code § 1473.5. The code authorizes habeas corpus relief for victims of intimate partner battering who were convicted without benefit of expert testimony on their abuse – if there is a reasonable probability that such evidence would have affected the result of their criminal proceeding.

The second ground for relief is a sentencing error that denied Ms. Kruzan, who was 16 at the time of her offense, the discretion to which juveniles were entitled under California Penal Code § 190.5(b) before being sentenced to life without possibility of parole.

Ms. Kruzan, now 32, has served half of her life in prison.  She resides in the Honor Dorm at the California Correctional Facility for Women in Chowchilla, California.