At age 11, Sara Kruzan was a good student with a troubled home life: her mother was addicted to drugs and her father was absent. In need of a parental figure, Sara met a 31-year-old man named G.G., who began buying her gifts and taking her and her friends out. G.G. spent two years establishing himself as a father figure in Sara’s life and earning her trust, but then, when she was 13, he raped her. Soon, Sara was just one of several girls working for G.G. as a prostitute: the time he had spent showering her with gifts had merely been “grooming” her for prostitution, a small investment in comparison to the profits turned in the sex trade. On March 10, 1994, after three years of being subjected to strange men for twelve hours every night, 16-year-old Sara made a fatal decision. Finding herself in a Riverside, Calif., motel room with G.G., Sara shot him in the neck with a pistol. She stole $1,500 and the keys to his Jaguar. She left her purse at the motel, though, which led to her arrest four days later and subsequent confession. At her trial, Sara testified to the abuse she endured, and said a rival pimp threatened to kill her if she didn’t kill G.G. Prosecutors offered Sara a plea which would have given her the possibility of parole, but she turned it down against her lawyer’s advice, was convicted and sentenced to life without parole. The judge who handed down Sara’s sentence told her she had “no moral scruple” to kill G.G. on the orders of another pimp. Incarcerated at the Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, Calif., Sara is now 34.
Her case has brought significant attention to the practice of sentencing juveniles who commit murder to life without parole. Among those involved in her cause are actress Demi Moore, who shared a video interview with Kruzan (see below) on her Twitter account in 2009. The video spread across the web and in 2011, under the mounting pressure of media attention and public demand, Gov. Schwarzenegger commuted Sara’s sentence to 25 years to life with a possibility of parole. While that possibility may give Sara hope of one day seeing the world outside prison, her supporters feel that it isn’t enough.
At first rejecting a battered partner defense, the attorney general’s office eventually conceded that “it is perverse to suggest that a minor who has been sexually abused and exploited from the age of 11 should be entitled to lesser defenses than an adult.” Now, Riverside County prosecutors and Sara’s attorneys have reached a tentative settlement, but both sides are keeping quiet about what it entails. The possibilities are that a new trial, previously denied, will be granted, or that Sara will be released from prison with credit for time served, or other options. More information regarding the agreement reached by attorneys and prosecutors will become known after a hearing scheduled for January 11.