A tentative settlement has been reached by Sara Kruzan’s attorneys and Riverside County prosecutors to resolve her quest for a new trial in her 1994 first-degree murder case in Riverside when Kruzan, then 16, shot and killed her former pimp.
It’s unclear whether the settlement could lead to a new trial for Kruzan or an end to her prison term.
A settlement could range from a new trial to a plea bargain that could result in Kruzan being given credit for time served and being released from custody after nearly 17 years.
Neither the defense nor the prosecution would comment on details of the agreement..
Kruzan’s legal team argued that she should be allowed a new trial and to present a defense as a victim of “intimate partner battering” by the pimp, George Gilbert “G.G.” Howard.
Kruzan said Howard had raped, molested and enslaved her since she was 11, then shopped her as a teen prostitute. Kruzan is now 34 and incarcerated at the state women’s prison in Chowchilla. Supporters have linked her case to human trafficking issues.
In her 1995 Riverside County murder trial, prosecutors had argued that Kruzan was no longer employed by Howard in March 1994, when she lured him to the Dynasty Suites on Iowa Avenue in Riverside, shot him in the neck with a pistol, stole $1,500 from his pocket and took his car.
Kruzan confessed to authorities upon her arrest and was tried as an adult. She testified during her trial that Howard’s rival had threatened her life if she didn’t carry out the crime.
Kruzan was convicted of first-degree murder with special circumstances and given a mandatory life prison term, despite her age. During her sentencing, the judge said the teen had “no moral scruples” to shoot one pimp at another’s behest.
In 2011, then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced Kruzan’s sentence to 25 years to life, with the possibility of parole.
Her attorneys’ request for a new trial was turned down by a Riverside County judge in February 2010. That ruling was upheld by the 4th District Court of Appeal. The California Supreme Court granted a petition for review, and asked for informal letter responses.
At first the attorney general’s office maintained there was no basis for a battered partner defense by Kruzan, but later conceded “it is perverse to suggest that a minor who has been sexually abused and exploited from the age of 11 should be entitled to lesser defenses than an adult.”
Kruzan’s supporters included the Human Rights Watch organization and actress Demi Moore.
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