A California woman sentenced to life without the possibility of parole as a teenager for fatally shooting a man who abused and sex trafficked her was granted clemency Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Kruzan was 16 in 1994 when she killed George Gilbert Howard in a motel room in Riverside, California. The following year, she was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. During her trial, she said that Howard had sexually abused her and trafficked her for sex from the time that she was just 13 years old.
In 2011, then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had commuted her sentence to life with the possibility of parole. She was paroled in 2013 and released from jail, but the conviction still stood.
In his pardon, Newsom said that Kruzan had “provided evidence that she is living an upright life and has demonstrated her fitness for restoration of civic rights and responsibilities.”
“Since then, Ms. Kruzan has transformed her life and dedicated herself to community service,” Newsom wrote. “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.”
A governor’s pardon does not overturn a conviction, but it relieves a person of some of the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. Despite the pardon, Kruzan is still a convicted felon in the state of California.
Kruzan’s legal team has sent a formal request to the Riverside County district attorney’s office, asking them to review the case and ask the court to overturn her conviction. If the conviction is overturned, Kruzan will no longer have a criminal record.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Kruzan says that the decision has released “these invisible chains that I didn’t realize were still taloned in me.”
“Do I wanna move forward with love? Or do I wanna move forward with fear, anger and pain?” Kruzan said to the newspaper. “Now, I wanna move forward in love. And that takes a lot of courage to do that.”