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Clemency Urged For Woman Who Killed Pimp

Aired 1/31/12 on KPBS News.

Sara Kruzan has spent more than half her life in a Calif. prison for killing her pimp. Kruzan’s San Diego relatives and local advocates are pressing Gov. Jerry Brown to grant her clemency in a case they call an embarrassment to the criminal-justice system.

Transcript

One of the first things Sara Kruzan did when she entered prison at 16 was to look up the words "moral" and "scruples." The judge in her murder trial had told her she had none.

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

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

Aired 1/31/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Guests

Ann Rogan, Sara Kruzan's aunt

Justin Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law.

“I had no idea what moral was," Kruzan said. "I did not know what scruples meant.”

And really, Sara’s defenders argue, how could she?

Sara grew up in Riverside amid stress and chaos. Her mother admitted bashing Sara’s head on the floor. Sara was placed in foster care for a time after bruises were discovered. Sara 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, Sara 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. Sara 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, Sara was raped on school grounds by three neighborhood boys. Then, G.G. forced Sara 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.

Sara went to a motel room in Riverside with G.G. Her aunt said once inside the room, Sara 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.”

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

Sara’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 Sara.

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

Sara’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, Sara 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. Sara’s appellate lawyers want the California Supreme Court to now set her free, or grant her a retrial.

The Riverside County DA’s office says it is confident in its actions at trial, and in the jury’s verdict.

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.”

Comments

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 31, 2012 at 8:07 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Very sad but doesn't the state have programs to help teens in such situations? And where was CPS? Other minors have been taken away from their parents for much less.

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Avatar for user 'SoldierCoder'

SoldierCoder | January 31, 2012 at 12:02 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Right, so CPS didn't even notice her gone from school while G.G. forced her to prostitute. Also, she killed the guy who put her into prostitution. She not only saved her mother and herself, but also all the other girls G.G. was then prostituting. He was violent pedophile predator pimp, and she should have been given a medal, not locked up.

Put another way, G.G. ordered up the Karma pizza, she delivered it, and now he's one with everything (six feet under). I cannot stress enough, if he wasn't preying upon vulnerable teenage girls, he would not have been shot by one.

People always bring up the money. It is totally meaningless. Pimps like GG make their money by stealing the fruits of the enslaved girls miserable labor. She was not stealing, she was recovering what was hers in the first place.

Gov Brown should know better than to punish a girl for fighting the tyranny she was under. Gov Brown should free Sara Kruzan.

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Avatar for user 'Satariel'

Satariel | January 31, 2012 at 3:22 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

I am glad she took one of these creeps off the streets, I hope she is freed.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 31, 2012 at 6:36 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

I heard this story on the radio driving home today and it really made me angry.

Our justice system is so out of whack.

I am not saying she should get off totally, but the mitigating circumstances should have been brought up at trial and the fact they weren't proves she had incompetent defense and deserves a new trial.

I heard this young lady speak on the radio today, and she does not sound like a craze killer. She sounds like someone who was in a very unfortunate situation and was acting in self defense.

She even said herself she realizes she should be punished because taking a life is wrong, but I am not convinced keeping this woman in prison is a benefit to society.

In fact, I think she could serve society better by being on th eoutside helping young ladies who are in the predicaments that brought her to the tragic event.

**The real criminal here is Judge David Gunn. That slimy, corrupt jerk is an embarrassment to our justice system and needs to be weeded out of the courtroom. I'm always hearing people talk about "activist judges" - well my dears you have a real stooge here in Mr. Gunn. It scares me that corrupt people like this are able to be overtly inept as lawyers and yet people still support them to become judges. It's just foul. Judge Gunn, YOU, sir, are foul.**

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Avatar for user 'Yebo3453'

Yebo3453 | February 5, 2012 at 11:27 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Where was CPS? Good question. There are so many Saras out there. This case is such a travesty.

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Avatar for user 'spdbumpca'

spdbumpca | February 10, 2012 at 7:42 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Justice? The system only works if everyone involved fullfills their responsibilties with a minimum of competence. Her defense was more than lacking, it made it worse. Now, we as a community are actually paying the price as well. She seems like with some guidance and education she could be a productive member of society. At the minimum educate young girls on the dangers of the streets and how not to be manipulated by pimps and gangbangers - but instead she sits in jail with little hope.

Doesnt seem like justice at all. Justice would be to get her defense lawyer, or at minimum the state defense lawyers association to start working on getting her out of incarceration and working with young girls.

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Avatar for user 'zwazo'

zwazo | February 27, 2012 at 3:34 p.m. ― 2 years, 10 months ago

Sara never committed any crime. The girl was a victim- abused by her mother, deserted by her father, enslaved raped and pimped out by G.G. How is such a wretched life punishable? It is not.You cannot punish trafficking victims! What she did was to liberate herself from slavery in the only possible way. And yes, she did save uncountable other girls from what had happened to her.

Sara and I have been corresponding for about two years. She is my friend. She is also my hero and role model. And I'm 84 years old. What she has done with her life is nothing short of miraculous. Sara is one of the most remarkable humans I have ever met.

Sara needs her freedom. But the world also needs Sara.

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Avatar for user 'cuttingedge'

cuttingedge | June 26, 2012 at 6:42 a.m. ― 2 years, 6 months ago

wow she gets life for killing a pimp child molester . that was killing her slowly. the real question is how many little girls did she save at 13 if I went through what she was going through I think the outcome would've been the same to condemn someone for life without looking at the simple fact of who it was that she killed this was no pedestrian that walked the streets helping others out this was a simpleminded pedophile forcing little girls to make him a living she spent her whole childhood in jail and the other beginning have being been molested now as adult she's pushed her way through school from her video from five years ago definitely found morals and scruples which I think she had all along morals trying to get out of the life that she was forced into scruples taken the cards to get it done a lot of people think it's easy to take a life its lot harder to take your life back the judicial system as it is we are guilty before innocent with no evidence can be convicted of crimes innocent people are jailed constantly police killing people and getting away with it at least he admits to what she's done in the girl a trophy and letter out of jail she's done her time after childhood half of her adulthood its time that she has her own kids

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Avatar for user 'kiwi'

kiwi | August 12, 2012 at 1:10 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

To all who hear's this story is very heart breaking, Me myself have spent time with this young lady Sara J. Kruzan. This highly intellegent woman is my up most inspiration who help me believe in my dreams and because of her I no longer do things that will get me in prison, I learned a powerful life long lesson from Sara Krusan, as I will have conversations with her as I was expressing my poetry to her, she will hear me out and tell me it's how I deliver my message to the people. That stuck with me. Her pain I related to and it able me to write my book "Keep'n It Poetically Lyrikal" because her story was my story too in some areas. I wrote a poem called "Inspiration Rings From Miles Away" you will find on youtube and Sara Krusan co-wrote it with me. Where you can look up Kimberly Williams "Inspiration Rings From Miles Away" We mail it in prison to Barack Obama on Febuare 20, 2009 before it ever became a song and never looked back for a thank you. That is why I breathe that song into life. That one day Sara will hear my deliverance. I did it! I found a song that will keep me on the right side of life, thanks to Sara believing in me, I just want to say Thank You Sara J. Krusan and I Love you. I believe in your freedom that God will see you out that madness....Chowchilla Super Star...by Kimberly Williams kiwimusic422....The book is in all book stores now.....Sara have blessed my life. I lost contact with her but God be willing let this message give her inspiration to push a little longer in prison. God is Good. You freedom will come.

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