Twenty-seven years after being sentenced to life imprisonment for killing her abuser, Sara Kruzan has been officially pardoned by California Governor Gavin Newsom.
In 1995, Kruzan was found guilty of first-degree murder one year after she killed George Gilbert Howard when she was 16 years old. In the years after her conviction, Kruzan became an advocate for policy reform regarding victims of sex trafficking and accused Howard of sexually abusing and trafficking her as a teen.
In a profile by the Los Angeles Times, it was reported that Kruzan met Howard when she was 11 years old. Soon after their meeting, Howard trafficked her and forced her to have sex with other men. Years later, after being threatened by her boyfriend's uncle, Kruzan agreed to rob Howard at a motel, where she ultimately shot and killed him while in fear for her life.
On July 1, Newsom pardoned Kruzan, who was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, along with 17 others who were also granted clemency.
"When Ms. Kruzan was 16 years old, she fatally shot the man who had abused her and trafficked her for sex," Newsom wrote in his pardon, adding that "she has provided evidence that she is living an upright life and has demonstrated her fitness for restoration of civic rights and responsibilities."
In 2011, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced her sentence to 25 years and included in his clemency petition the possibility of parole. Two years later, in 2013, a Riverside judge lessened her sentence even further, and Kruzan was released from prison that year when she was 35 years old. As the LA Times reported, her conviction affected her ability to obtain work.
A press release regarding the pardon explained that, while it does not erase her conviction, the pardon does work to remove "counterproductive barriers to employment and public service."