With the 2012 Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama, striking down mandatory JLWOP for homicide, there has been increased optimism that the U.S. has turned a corner in the inhumane sentencing of youth.
Although the decision did not affect the case of Sara Kruzan, whose JLWOP sentence was commuted to 25 years with parole in 2010, it is still welcome news that she will immediately be eligible for parole.
Here are more details from the Press-Enterprise (Riverside, California) on January 18, 2013:
Sara Kruzan, who has fought her conviction and sentencing for the first-degree murder of her former pimp in Riverside at age 16, has reached an agreement with prosecutors that could lead to her parole from prison, where she has been for nearly 19 years.
The agreement, announced in court Friday, Jan. 18, reduces Kruzan’s 1995 conviction from first-degree murder to second-degree murder with the use of a gun, and her sentence to 19 years to life.
That makes her eligible for parole, and her attorney said he would ask the prison system to move up consideration of her case. He estimated outside court it may be six months before a hearing is scheduled.
Kruzan was originally sentenced to life in prison without parole for the slaying. Her sentence was commuted to 25 years to life by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on his last day in office in January 2011.
Her attorney, Ronald A. McIntire, said a rough calculation of time-served credits indicated that if Kruzan had originally been sentenced to the terms announced Friday, she may have been eligible for parole four or five years ago.
Here are further details regarding her fight for a new trial:
Kruzan’s legal team has been fighting for her to get a new trial, saying she should be allowed to present a defense as a victim of “intimate partner battering” by Howard. Kruzan said Howard had raped, molested and subjugated her starting when she was 11, then shopped her as a teen prostitute.
Kruzan, now 35, has campaigned on social media and gotten actress Demi Moore to champion her cause. Supporters have linked her case to human trafficking issues.
Her attorneys’ request for a new trial was turned down by a Riverside County judge in February 2010. 4th District Court of Appeal also rejected a similar request. In August 2010, the California Supreme Court granted a petition from Kruzan, and asked for informal letter responses.
At first, the attorney general’s office maintained there was no basis for a battered partner defense by Kruzan, but later conceded “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.”
The Supreme Court ordered the case returned to Riverside County to review her request. In late 2012, the sides reached a tentative agreement. The details of that agreement are what was revealed in court Friday.
Here is an interview in which Sara Kruzan tells her own story: