In court documents, Kruzan said her pimp, George Gilbert Howard, began wooing her when she was 11 with ice cream, roller skating outings and rides in his Cadillac. Along the way, Kruzan said Howard sexually assaulted her and coerced her to work the streets of Riverside in Southern California as a prostitute beginning when she was 13.
Kruzan said in her clemency application that when she entered the motel room that night in 1994, all “the fear, anger and panic from all of the past abuse exploded inside of me and I shot him.” Howard, 36, died of a neck wound.
Her lawyers are seeking a reduction of her first-degree murder conviction to manslaughter, which would mean her immediate release or a new trial. They contend her case should fall under a 2005 California law enabling domestic violence victims serving lengthy murder sentences to seek shorter ones if their attorneys had failed to invoke domestic violence as a defense.
Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach will decide whether to free her, schedule a hearing or do nothing, letting her life sentence stand. Zellerbach, who has until Sept. 18 to decide, declined comment.
Meanwhile, courts in Florida, California and elsewhere are beginning to examine yet another wrinkle of “extreme” sentences for juveniles: the “de facto” life sentence.
On Thursday, the California Supreme Court unanimously overturned a 110-year sentence of a 16-year-old gang member Rodrigo Caballero for attempted murder, ruling it was essentially an unconstitutional life sentence. The court called on lawmakers to prohibit juvenile prison sentences for non-homicide crimes without a meaningful chance for parole.
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