On his last day in office, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced 33-year-old Sara Kruzan’s sentence of life without the possibility of parole. At 16, Kruzan was convicted of killing the man who had repeatedly raped her and forced her into a life of prostitution. On Sunday, Schwarzenegger called Kruzan’s sentence “excessive” and reduced it to twenty five years to life with the possibility of parole.
“I applaud the governor’s action and the hard work of [so] many to highlight this case,” state Sen. Leland Yee (D), also a child psychologist, said in a statement. “The case of Sara Kruzan demonstrates why we should never sentence a child to life without the possibility of parole - a sentence to die in prison,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are many more Sara Kruzans out there who are also deserving of a more appropriate sentence.”
Over at Change.org, Charles Davis provided good evidence to back up Yee’s point, noting that a 2008 Human Rights Watch report found that sixteen percent of children sentenced to life without parole in the US were 15 years or younger when they committed their crimes. And what’s more, the report estimates that there are:
… more than 2,400 youth offenders in the U.S. serving sentences of life without parole, 60 percent of them African American and the majority first-time offenders. Twenty-six percent were sentenced under felony murder laws that punish children who were party to a crime like robbery where; in Florida, one child whose friend broke a window with a rock is being held responsible for the fact the homeowner responded by shooting and killing him.
Kruzan’s story gained widespread attention thanks in part to a video that told her story. In it, she recounted how at the age of 11 a 31-year-old man called “G.G” began grooming her for a life of prostitution that lasted until she killed him.
“I definitely know that I deserve punishment,” she said, in tears. “You don’t just take somebody’s life and think it’s okay.” Yet she maintained that she was on the path of redemption and deserved a second chance.