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Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Brown: I am writing to urge you to grant clemency to Sara Kruzan, a woman who is serving a 25-year-to-life term in a California penitentiary for shooting and killing, when she was 16 years old, a man who had sexually abused her and who had previously been her pimp, making him a very serious child sex offender. While I am not condoning vigilantism, Sara's sentence of life without parole, imposed when she was a juvenile, is too extreme considering her youth and the extraordinary circumstances surrounding her crime, and fails to reward the remarkable personal growth and transformation that she has demonstrated during her 16 years in prison.

This is your opportunity to correct the woefully inadequate action of your predecessor, Governor Schwarzenegger, who commuted Sara's sentence from life without parole to twenty-five years to life. At this point she has spent more than half her life in prison and has served more time than most murderers. You can now restore justice by commuting Sara's sentence to time served. She, the State of California, and all women everywhere will benefit.

Sara was just two months past her 16th birthday when she shot and killed a well-known pimp who raped her and sexually abused her since she was 11 and forced her into prostitution since she was 13. Now 32 years old, Sara has spent more than half her life in prison. She has been a model inmate, and has earned her college education, and received a 2009 Honor Dorm"Woman of the Year" award from corrections officers.

Prior to her incarceration, Sara grew up in Riverside, California where she excelled in school, making the honor roll and running track. But starting at a young age, Sara was a victim of regular abuse: she was molested by several men, gang-raped by neighbors, physically and emotionally abused by her mother, and then abused and manipulated by her pimp. Two nationally known experts have determined that Sara was suffering from the effects of intimate partner battering when she committed the crime.

Despite being only 16 and having no criminal record, Sara was tried as an adult and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. At the time of her sentencing, the California Youth Authority found Sara amenable to treatment. Had the court followed this recommendation, Sara would have been released at age 25. Even while her youth, abuse, and trauma help to mitigate her offense, Sara expresses remorse for her crime. In a 2007 Human Rights Watch interview, she reflects:

"I definitely know that I deserve punishment. You don't just take someone's life and think it's okay. I am very sorry to take his life like thatÉIf I had a parole hearing, I would want to tell the people that, first of all, I have learned what moral scruples are. Second, that every day is a challenge, but I realize that I have a lot of good to offer. Now the person who I am today... I believe that I could set a positive example."

The terrible crimes committed by youth can take and ruin lives. Yet we believe that the sentencing choices in California should reflect the circumstances of the offender as well as the nature of the crime, and leave open the possibility that a person redeem herself. This is especially true of youth. As the United States Supreme Court re-affirmed earlier this year, youth are different from adults, and thus a life without parole sentence is "an especially harsh sentence for juveniles."

Sara is not the same person that she was at age 16. Considering her background of trauma and abuse, her young age at the time of the offense, and her rehabilitation over the last 16 years, I ask that you commute her sentence to time served.


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