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AG Reverses Decision On Woman Who Killed Her Pimp

Aired 4/17/12 on KPBS News.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has dramatically reversed herself today in the case of Sara Kruzan, who killed her pimp at age 16.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has dramatically reversed herself today in the case of Sara Kruzan, who killed her pimp at age 16.

Earlier this year, prosecutors agreed to reduce Sara Kruzan’s first-degree mu...
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Above: Earlier this year, prosecutors agreed to reduce Sara Kruzan’s first-degree murder charge to second-degree, which made her eligible for parole.


Kamala Harris Letter

Kamala Harris Letter

Letter from Attorney General Kamala Harris.

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Harris withdrew her position that Kruzan was not a victim of domestic violence in a letter filed with the California Supreme Court.

"Ms. Kruzan's tragic circumstances and the fact that she was a sexually exploited minor is the antithesis of what is traditionally thought of as 'dating,'" the letter read. "But we recognize that it may be applicable here or in other cases."

Kruzan spent the last 17 years in prison for murdering her pimp. Kruzan met the pimp when she was 11. He molested her immediately, raped her at 13 and forced her into prostitution.

Last month, the attorney general told the California Supreme Court that Kruzan's relationship with her pimp was at best professional and financial and at worst criminal. Therefore, Harris concluded Kruzan was not a domestic violence victim.

But this week, Harris did a turnabout. She told the state's high court that it is perverse to suggest that a minor who has been sexually abused and exploited from the age of 11 should not be entitled to at least the defense afforded an adult who has been in an abusive relationship.

The attorney general also apologized to the court for its reversal. Kruzan's lawyers are asking for clemency or a new trial.

Kruzan grew up in Riverside amid stress and chaos. Her mother admitted bashing Kruzan’s head on the floor. Kruzan was placed in foster care for a time after bruises were discovered. Kruzan was molested for the first time at age 5 by her mom’s boyfriend. Successive boyfriends did the same, court documents show.

In a five-year-old YouTube clip, Kruzan describes the one bright spot in her life:

“In school, I excelled," she said. "I was on the honor roll, the principal’s honor roll. I was an overachiever. I ran track. I ran for student body president.”

But her love for school could not save her. Her mother kicked her out when she was 11. Kruzan was hospitalized for attempted suicide.

That’s also when a well-known pimp George Gilbert Howard, or G.G., befriended her.

“He was like a father figure. G.G. was there and he would talk to me and take me out and give me all these lavish gifts and do all these things for free," she said.

At 13, Kruzan was raped on school grounds by three neighborhood boys. Then, G.G. forced Kruzan into prostitution.

“He had sex with me when I was 13 ... and he uses his manhood to hurt," she said.

She went to live with her grandmother in San Diego when she was 15. At 16, she began seeing a boy whose ex-con uncle ordered her to kill G.G. Her aunt, Anne Rogan, said the order was issued with a threat.

“And this guy said to her, 'well I want you to get G.G.’s money and I want you to shoot him and if you don’t do this, I’m going to kill your mother'; and I believe he threatened her boyfriend at the time," Rogan said.

Kruzan went to a motel room in Riverside with G.G. Her aunt said once inside the room, Kruzan felt trapped and desperate.

"Apparently when he started to pull out a sex toy, that is when she shot him. There was a fear that gripped her of all the abuse and that’s when she shot him.”

Kruzan took his money too. Her supporters say she never stood a chance in court.

Kruzan’s defense lawyer David Gunn urged the 16-year-old to reject a plea offer that would have sent her to prison for 30 years, with time off for good behavior. She took his advice and the case went to trial.

The government put on seven witnesses over two days. Gunn, now a judge, never called an expert witness to discuss impacts of her horrific childhood, or her forced prostitution.

In fact, the only witness the defense called was Kruzan.

But her appeals attorneys say 17-year-old Kruzan was unprepared. She was depressed and medicated. She was unable to joust with a skilled prosecutor.

Kruzan’s aunt says her niece never gave her side.

"She didn’t go into any of what happened to her and I don’t know why," Rogan said. "All I can tell you is that she has this legal team and they went back and found all these records: How she tried to commit suicide at 11; how she tried again at 13; how she was gang-raped. There are police reports.”

In 1994, Kruzan was found guilty and sentenced to life without parole.

“She was a black girl from the hood," said Nikki Junker. She directs "With More Than A Purpose," a San Diego group which advocates for sex trafficking victims. "Nobody cared.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted Kruzan’s sentence to 25 years to life, with the possibility of parole.

Kruzan has earned a bachelor’s degree in science in prison. She lives in the honor dorm at the women’s prison in Chowchilla.

Kruzan said she sorry she took G.G.’s life.

“I definitely deserve punishment," she said. "You don’t just take someone’s life and think that’s OK.”

But she wants a shot at helping others on the outside.

“I believe I could set a positive example. I am very determined to show that no matter what you have done or where you have come from or what you have experienced in life, it’s up to you to change.”

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | April 17, 2012 at 4:16 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

Let her out!!!

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Avatar for user 'dbw281953'

dbw281953 | April 17, 2012 at 8:21 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

I want to thank all involved in getting Sara one step closer to being FREE she should never have been in prison to begin with , In my mind she helped save many other young girls from her same fate of being abused by this "man". I personally see her as a HERO . PLEASE FREE HER NOW !!!

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Avatar for user 'SweetPea3426'

SweetPea3426 | April 17, 2012 at 9:30 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

I do feel Sara was a victim, Ad having read her story I would love to help other girls like Sara. Please contact me for more information on my mission. Thanks

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | April 18, 2012 at 9:01 a.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

I remember this story.

Now, Miss Sharma, living with a pimp and going to school after age 11? Any relatives? Was the pimp the "caregiver" on the school forms? No home visits from teachers or administrators? No CPS? There is a definitive gap here in a rush to get at the more lurid aspects of the story.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | April 18, 2012 at 9:05 a.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

DBW, you couldn't be more mistaken. I can certainly understand her killing of the pimp IF he was being physical abusive which apparently he was, but still it would be voluntary manslaughter. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

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Avatar for user 'judgesmails_1'

judgesmails_1 | April 19, 2012 at 8:07 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

This is bush league reporting at its absolute worst. Shame on you KPBS. This “piece” recklessly suggests that Kruzan killed her pimp as based on intimate partner battering syndrome (IBS). Let’s break that down: IBS is a legally recognized type of self-defense - simply put, you can kill your domestic partner and then present the defense that you only did so because you feared the next beating. The text book example is the battered woman who shoots her abusive husband in the head as he sleeps. This is a law that is smart and makes sense. However, significantly, the killer’s action must be premised on his or her fear of the victim. Here, Kruzan specifically, expressly and unequivocally testified at her trial that she killed the victim, her pimp, because she feared an absent third party drug dealer who was the one who gave her the loaded gun and ordered her to execute the pimp. And, the drug dealer threatened Kruzan that he would kill her at some undisclosed time and location if she failed to follow the order. Unfortunately for Kruzan, it has been firmly established by the California Supreme Court that you can’t kill another to save yourself from a threatening third party, especially an absent one. Having been involved in the case at the Riverside County District Attorney’s office many years ago, I have followed the present case closely, and have thoroughly reviewed all of the briefing, I say shame on you Amita Sharma. Your reporting is poor as it thoroughly misrepresents the facts and the relevant legal issues. I expected more from KPBS. Finally, the real crime here is that Kruzan was charged as an adult and sentenced to life in prison under these circumstances. She has served her time and should be freed. Nobody disputes that. But, KPBS has a duty to be honest with the facts. Isn’t that the difference with KPBS and Doug Manchester’s abomination of a “paper”? The reporting here is an embarrassment to the KPBS organization.

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Avatar for user 'NOFX'

NOFX | October 17, 2012 at 2:10 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

I find this a completely ridiculous outcome. This will result in countless numbers of people being killed with absolutely no accountability to the murderer. Rather, I should state that this will result in large numbers of men being murdered by women.
This type of scenario has played out countless times, either where the man/husband kills the wife or the other way around. The big difference though is that usually when the man kills, the assumption of guilt is first and foremost; while when the woman kills, a variety of “defense” mechanisms tend to play out. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a concrete example to illustrate, but there are many. Although his accuser didn’t kill him, think of Brian Banks’ story.
This woman should not be released from prison. Even though GG was a pimp, etc, this does not give another the right to take the law into their own hands. Who gave Sara the right to play judge, jury & executioner? We are a civilized society; not living in the wild west or some foreign land where people’s rights are infringed upon.
I’m sure one of the reasons for releasing her was the fact that this is an election year and many of the bleeding heart liberals and feminists are taking this opportunity to bring this issue to the forefront & are dancing on GG’s grave.
So whether GG was guilty of his crimes or not, he will never have the opportunity to defend himself in a court of law. This is a basic right of every citizen. This man has a mother and most likely siblings that will never see him again. This scenario has played out even when the person murdered was innocent of his/her crimes and couldn’t defend themselves to the “potential victim’s” allegations.
Who are the really victims in our “civilized” society? Men have become the butt of women’s wishes; whether it be in family court with antiquated divorce laws, criminal courts with false accusations and unfair practices or sitcoms portrayal of bumble headed nitwits.
So, to conclude, I’d like to put this to you: if the roles were reversed and this man was ″abused” by this woman and decided to kill her, do you think there would be this much outrage at his incarceration and a reversal? Fat chance, huh...

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