California Governor Gavin Newsom pardoned Sara Kruzan on July 1 — decades after the teenage sex trafficking survivor was convicted of killing her trafficker.
Kruzan was 16 years old when she killed George Howard, a man who’d been sexually abusing her since she was 11 and trafficking her since 13.
The teen shot her abuser in the neck in a Riverside motel room, took the man’s cash and fled the scene in his sports car, USA Today reports.
The following year, despite her age, Kruzan was tried as an adult for first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1995.
Former state Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted Kruzan’s sentence to 25 years to life in December 2010.
Then, in January 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown granted Kruzan’s release after the survivor served a total of 18 years in prison.
Now an advocate for children in the criminal justice system, Kruzan is 44 and finally receiving more justice.
Gov. Newsom stated in his pardon that the survivor 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. It does recognize the work she has done since to transform herself,” the governor said.
Notably, Newsom issued Kruzan’s pardon among over a dozen others and a similar amount of clemencies.
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Kruzan’s Reaction To The Pardon
“I will never forget what happened that night and fully acknowledge what did, but I am immensely grateful to feel some relief from the burden of shame and social stigma,” Kruzan said in a statement to The New York Times.
The survivor additionally “felt an overwhelming influx of emotions, primarily awe and shock and grief as I thought about everything that led to this moment.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Kruzan’s story, the advocate released a memoir earlier this year titled, I Cried to Dream Again: Trafficking, Murder and Deliverance.