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California Gov. pardons woman convicted of killing her trafficker as a teen

by Mike Creef, Staff Writer
Published: Last Updated on
Gavin Newsome pardons woman convicted of killing her trafficker as a teen
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California Governor Gavin Newsom has pardoned a woman who was convicted of murdering a man that trafficked her when she was a teenager in 1994.

On Friday, Gov. Newsom announced that he had granted a pardon to Sara Kruzan, who was 16-years-old when she fatally shot the man who had abused and trafficked her for sex for years.

Kruzan said the man she killed began abusing her when she was only 11 years old, and by 13 began trafficking her for sex. When she was 16 years old she fatally shot her abuser and was tried and convicted as an adult for first-degree murder. The judge did not permit evidence of Kruzan’s abuse to be presented during her trial.

A life sentence without the possibility of parole was given to 17-year-old Kruzan.

Multiple Governors Work To Free Kruzan

In 2011, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted Kruzan’s sentence to 25 years to life with the possibility of parole on his way out of office.

The next California Governor, Governor Jerry Brown, resentenced Kruzan to 15 years to life for second-degree murder two years later. Gov. Brown allowed her release in 2013, after Kruzan had served 18 years in prison.

In Friday’s pardon, Gov. Newsom said that “Ms. Kruzan has transformed her life and dedicated herself to community service. This act of clemency for Ms. Kruzan does not minimize or forgive her conduct or the harm it caused.”

Gov. Newsom did not mention Kruzan’s sexual abuse as a minor or her trafficker at all in his pardon. 

“I will never forget what happened that night and fully acknowledge what I did, but I am immensely grateful to feel some relief from the burden of shame and social stigma,” Kruzan told the New York Times. Since 2013, Kruzan has worked to broaden awareness and correct misinformation about sex trafficking.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Strengthens Defense For Sex Trafficking Victims 

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a victim of sex trafficking accused of killing can argue that they are justified because of the circumstances.

The justices ruled 4-3 that a 2008 state law that absolves trafficking victims of criminal liability for any offense committed as a direct result of being trafficked extends to first-degree intentional homicide.

Their ruling revolves around a case involving Chrystul Kizer, who was 17-years-old when she shot her sex trafficker in the head and burned down his house.

Before the ruling from Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, Kizer’s attorneys were not able to invoke Wisconsin’s immunity law at her trial. Kenosha County Circuit Judge David Wilk ruled that immunity only extends to trafficking-related charges such as restraining someone, extortion, prostitution, or slave labor, not intentional homicide.

The appeal made it all the way to Wisconsin’s highest court, where Justice Rebecca Dallet wrote for the majority that “the defendant must produce some evidence on which a reasonable jury could find that the defense applies.”

It will now be on Kizer’s attorneys to provide compelling evidence that her decision to kill her trafficker was connected to being trafficked.

Experts believe that Wisconsin’s Supreme Court ruling could influence similar laws in other states.

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