Sara Kruzan was just 16 in 1994 when she killed George Gilbert Howard in a motel room.
A teenager was sentenced to life in prison for fatally shooting a man in 1994 who sexually abused and trafficked her.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has now pardoned Sara Kruzan after 27 years. On July 1st, he announced that he has granted 17 pardons, 15 commutations, and one medical reprieve. Kruzan's was among 17 pardons announced on Friday. In Kruzan's case, while it does not remove her conviction it does work to remove “counterproductive barriers to employment and public service.”
Kruzan was just 16 years old when she killed George Gilbert Howard in a motel room in Riverside, California. In 1995, she was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. All the while, Kruzan had maintained that the man had sexually abused her and trafficked her for sex from when she was just 13 years old. She ended up serving 18 years in prison.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom last week pardoned Sara Kruzan, a victim of teen sex trafficking who spent nearly two decades in prison after she killed her abuser and has since become a national advocate for prison reform.https://t.co/xjy868yGu8— Children's Services Corruption Warriors (@ChildReviewSAT) July 5, 2022
Then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had commuted her sentence to life with the possibility of parole just before he left office in early 2011. Two years later in 2013, a Riverside judge lessened her sentence even further. She was released from jail at 35 years old but the conviction still stood. “When Ms. Kruzan was 16 years old, she fatally shot the man who had abused her and trafficked her for sex,” Newsom wrote in his pardon according to TODAY adding that “she has provided evidence that she is living an upright life and has demonstrated her fitness for restoration of civic rights and responsibilities.”
Over the years, she's spoken out about the circumstances of victims of child sex trafficking and exploitation. She has also shared her story in a memoir titled I Cried to Dream Again, reports Vogue.
California pardoned a woman who spent 18 years in prison for killing a man who trafficked/sexually abused her starting when she was 13.— AJ+ (@ajplus) July 4, 2022
Sara Kruzan was sentenced to life for killing her abuser in 1994, at age 17. She was freed in 2013. The pardon doesn't expunge her conviction. pic.twitter.com/cIgXbBdaMz
Although Kruzan is still considered a convicted felon in the state of California, she is grateful for her freedom. PEOPLE reports a governor's pardon does not overturn a conviction but takes off some of the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. According to the Los Angeles Times, Kruzan said that the decision has released "these invisible chains that I didn't realize were still taloned in me."
"Do I wanna move forward with love? Or do I wanna move forward with fear, anger and pain?" Kruzan shared. "Now, I wanna move forward in love. And that takes a lot of courage to do that."
Added Lenore Anderson, founder of Californians for Safety and Justice, “it’s frankly outrageous that she was convicted for the length of time in the first place, given the long history of abuse and trafficking. Sara is one of many thousands of youths who are exploited, sexually and commercially, who find themselves in the defendant’s seat when it’s more than obvious that the extreme abuse that they were suffering is what was underneath the crime,” she said.
Sara Kruzan was pardoned on Friday for killing the man who sexually abused and trafficked her.— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) July 3, 2022
She was 17 years old when she was convicted.
The pardon came 27 years later.https://t.co/4grN1p9TxY pic.twitter.com/3KnRHMlPP6
Cover Image Source: Sara Kruzan | YouTube ABC7