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Friday, January 6, 2017

The Sara Kruzan Murder Case

     While the law of murder is quite clear on what behavior constitutes the crime, occasionally there are cases that make the strict enforcement of that law seem unfair. In my opinion, the Sara Kruzan case falls into that category.

     As a child growing up in southern California in the 1980s, Sara Kruzan had to be hospitalized several times for severe depression. At age eleven she came under the influence of a Riverside, California pimp named George Gilbert Howard. In 1994, Kruzan moved to Rubidoux, an unincorporated community in Riverside County where she took up residence with another pimp, James Earl Hamilton. She was sixteen and working as a prostitute.

     On March 10, 1994, Hamilton arranged to have Kruzan meet George Gilbert Howard at the Dynasty Suites Motel in Riverside. That night, in the motel room, Kruzan shot Howard in the neck from close range. The pimp died on the spot. Kruzan took $1,500 from the dead man's wallet and drove off in his Jaguar.

     Homicide detectives found Kruzan's purse in the murder room. Four days later, police officers took the teen hooker into custody. When asked about Howard, she confessed to shooting her former pimp.

     The Riverside County district attorney decided to try Kruzan as an adult for first-degree murder.

     At Kruzan's May 1995 trial she took the stand and testified that James Earl Hamilton had ordered Howard's murder. The defendant believed that if she hadn't carried out the hit, Hamilton would have killed her and her mother. This homicide was, therefore, an offense committed by a young girl under duress. (Hamilton was never charged in connection with Howard's killing.) The jury of seven women and five men found the 17-year-old defendant guilty of first-degree murder.

     Because the pimp had been killed in the commission of a robbery, and the defendant had been "lying in wait" to murder the victim, the judge sentenced Kruzan to life without the possibility of parole. Corrections authorities sent her to the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla.

     On February 2009, a member of the group Human Rights Watch posted a six-minute interview of Kruzan on YouTube. The inmate described her miserable life as a prostitute and revealed how the pimp she had shot to death had abused her physically.

     In 2010, on his last day in office, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted Kruzan's sentence to 25 years to life with the possibility of parole.

     A Riverside County Judge, in January 2013, reduced Kruzan's first-degree conviction to second-degree murder. This made the 35-year-old prisoner eligible for immediate parole. Nine months later, the state parole board ordered her release pending Governor Jerry Brown's approval. The governor signed off on the parole on October 27, 2013. A few days after that, Sara Kruzan walked out of prison a free woman. No one has objected to her release.

     

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