By Charlene Muhammad CHARLENEM
(FinalCall.com) – Sara Kruzan could walk out of a California prison a free woman in April after serving nearly two decades for killing the man who molested and pimped her as a young girl.
After years of fi ghting for justice, her attorneys reached a settlement in January with Riverside County, Calif., prosecutors. The deal reduces Ms. Kruzan’s 1995 conviction from fi rst to second degree murder with the use of a gun.
The settlement also reduces her sentence from 25 years to life plus four year to 15 years plus four years. After serving 19 years, Ms. Kruzan could be they are confident she could be released this April, a supporter said.
“We are all very excited beyond words,” exclaimed Kim Deanne, Ms. Kruzan’s friend and a champion of the Free Sara Kruzan campaign. “Sara was so happy that she will fi nally be free. She is looking forward to reconnecting with her family and friends, traveling and taking one step at a time,” Ms. Deanne told The Final Call.
Ms. Kruzan’s case took a positive turn when on July 20, 2012, the California Supreme Court ordered State Attorney General Kamala Harris to show why her office felt Ms. Kruzan was not a victim of domestic violence.
The Attorney General’s Office had argued Ms. Kruzan was not entitled to a domestic abuse defense but reversed its position and asked the California Supreme Court to send the case back to Riverside, Calif., where it was tried.
Ms. Kruzan was disappointed but remained hopeful the criminal justice system would stop penalizing people who were human trafficked, Ms. Deanne said.
Ms. Kruzan murdered George Howard in a hotel room on March 10, 1994. Sixteen years old at the time, she was threatened and beaten by a friend’s uncle, according to her attorneys.
She was sentenced on May 10, 1995 at age 17 to a mandatory life sentence in prison without possibility of parole, plus four years, for using a gun. On January 2, 2011, then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted her sentence to 25 years to life with the possibility of parole. Her sentence was excessive, given her age and the significant abuse she suffered, he noted.
Her trial defense lacked expert witness testimony and the jury wasn’t told about the prolonged sexual abuse she’d suffered, supporters argued. In addition, the court’s discretion to sentence her to parole as a minor was overlooked, they further noted.
For now, the Free Sara Kruzan campaign’s next steps are to prepare her release. Supporters also vow to continue fighting for victims and survivors of human trafficking throughout America.
Part of the Free Sara Kruzan campaign’s efforts included “Mailbox Mondays,” a postcard and letter writing campaign to Riverside District Attorney Paul Zellerback and Attorney General Kamala Harris. The mailings asked them to “Free Sara with time served.”
Activities also included “Twitter Tuesdays to Free Sara.” A pink tab on the campaign’s website linked supporters to @FreeSaraKruzan, the official Twitter for the collaboration to free Ms. Kruzan. It also links visitors to the website, http://www.freesarakruzan.org.
Ms. Deanne credited the grassroots mobilization effort with helping to create awareness about Ms. Kruzan and human trafficking, not just in the United States, but globally.
“We had so many people take notice, whether campaigning on line or even just setting up a Light Brigade. Like in San Diego, it seems everyone saw us from here to Australia and people got involved wherever they were,” Ms. Deanne said.
“People in London set up similar demonstrations and whether it was passing out brochures or photos of Sara and making goods with Sara’s photo on cupcakes and things like, it just created a worldwide spectacle,” she added.
(Rita Renee Muhammad contributed to this article.)
Raped, pimped out and jailed: The painful saga of Sara Kruzan (FCN, 08-09-2012)
California court overturns rape conviction because victim was unmarried (FCN, 01-10-2013)
Sexual abuse and molestation, the open secret (FCN, 02-01-2012)
Project ProtectHER initiative teaches proper protection of women (FCN, 10-31-2006)