National Center for Youth Law


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Sara Kruzan One Step Closer to Freedom


Sara Kruzan

After years of efforts to free Sara Kruzan, convicted of life without the possibility of parole for killing her pimp at age 16, it is now likely that she will walk free within the coming months. The pimp had sexually abused her since she was 11, and he began trafficking her as a prostitute when she was 13. Over the years her case has become a rallying cry for those trying to do away with life without parole (LWOP) sentences for crimes committed by juveniles, as well as for those fighting on behalf of victims of human trafficking. On June 12, 2013, she was tentatively granted parole.

Kruzan has now cleared a major hurdle on her path to freedom. There was a hearing in front of a two-person panel at the Central California Women’s Facility prison in Chowchilla, where she is incarcerated. The panel made a “tentative suitability finding,” which is the technical term for a parole recommendation. Her release date was calculated at January 18, 2013. This means all her time has already been served, and she could be released immediately if the decision passes two remaining reviews, one by the state parole board and one by the governor’s office. The state Board of Parole Hearings has 120 days to review the parole grant for any errors of law or fact. If the decision is finalized, the Governor Jerry Brown has 30 days to review it, and can reverse, modify, or affirm the decision. Kruzan’s lawyer, Ronald McIntire, expects the process to move faster than the full five months allowed for review.

Since originally being sentenced to life without parole, Kruzan had successfully reduced her sentence twice. In January 2011 then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted her sentence to 25 years to life in response to her petition for a pardon. More recently, in January 2013, her attorneys and the Riverside County district attorney reached a deal which lead to the tentative grant of parole. Under that agreement, the district attorney’s office monitored the facts presented at the parole hearing, but remained neutral on the recommendation.

She has now spent 19 of her 35 years behind bars. If the decision passes the two final reviews, Kruzan would be released to transitional housing somewhere outside Riverside County, according to her aunt, Anne E. Rogan. “…[T]he panel recognized Sara’s sincere remorse, her successful efforts to overcome severe childhood abuse and exploitation, and her remarkable accomplishments while incarcerated the past 19 years,” read a statement from her lawyer.

For more on this recent development, see Sara Kruzan Recommended for Parole.

For more background on the case and the deal reached in January 2013 that lead to this tentative grant of parole, see Deal Reached in Sara Kruzan’s Case.