RIVERSIDE (AP) — A 35-year-old woman who has been in prison since she killed her former pimp at age 16 is eligible for parole, according to Riverside County prosecutors.
Under an agreement announced in court Friday, Sara Jessimy Kruzan’s 1995 conviction was reduced from first-degree murder to second-degree with the use of a gun. Accordingly, her 25-year to life sentence is now reduced to 19 to life, according to spokesman John Hall.
Having served 19 years in prison, Kruzan is now eligible for parole. A call to Kruzan’s attorney seeking details of how soon she may seek parole was not immediately returned Friday afternoon.
Kruzan killed George Gilbert Howard in a motel room in 1994, years after he began wooing her at age 11 with ice cream, roller skating outings and rides in his Cadillac. By the time she was 13, he was having sex with her and prostituting her in Southern California, according to court documents.
Kruzan said in an earlier clemency application that when she entered the motel room that night in 1994, all “the fear, anger and panic from all of the past abuse exploded inside of me and I shot him.” Howard, 36, died of a neck wound.
She was sentenced to life in prison until Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted her sentence to 25 years to life on his last day in office, Dec. 31, 2010.
At the time, Schwarzenegger said he still considered her guilty of first-degree murder but called the sentence “excessive,” saying he sympathized with her “significant abuse starting at a vulnerable age.”
Kruzan’s case garnered widespread publicity in 2009 after Human Rights Watch posted a six-minute interview with her on YouTube that was heavily circulated.
That year, state Sen. Leland Yee, made the Kruzan case a centerpiece of a proposed law to reduce life sentences for minors, but that legislation died in Assembly.
In 2012, the San Francisco Democrat authored another law that allows courts to review juveniles’ life without parole sentences, with the option of reducing their sentences to 25 years to life with the possibility of parole. Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law in September.
Yee, who is a child psychologist, congratulated Kruzan on Friday, saying the new law is backed by science, and cases like hers reflect that “brain maturation continues well through adolescence and thus impulse control, planning, and critical thinking skills are not yet fully developed.”
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