SARA KRUZAN, WOMAN WHO WAS SENTENCED TO LWOP FOR KILLING HER PIMP AT 16, RELEASED ON PAROLE
Late Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown chose not to block a parole board’s decision to release Sara Kruzan. At age seventeen, Kruzan received 25-to-life without the possibility of parole for killing her pimp—a man who began grooming her for child prostitution when she was just eleven years old.
The Associated Press has the story. Here’s a clip:
Kruzan was 17 when she was sentenced to die in prison for the 1994 shooting death of George Gilbert Howard in a Riverside motel room. She contended that he sexually abused her and had groomed her since she was 11 to work for him as a child prostitute.
Her case became a high-profile example used by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who sought to soften harsh life sentences for juveniles.
“It is justice long overdue,” Yee told the Los Angeles Times. He called Kruzan’s case the “perfect example of adults who failed her, of society failing her. You had a predator who stalked her, raped her, forced her into prostitution, and there was no one around.”
Kruzan’s case garnered widespread publicity in 2010 after Human Rights Watch posted a six-minute interview with her on YouTube [above].
The year culminated with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger commuting her sentence to 25-years-to-life with the possibility of parole on his last full day in office. Schwarzenegger said he still considered her guilty of first-degree murder, but he sympathized with her defense that the man she killed had sexually abused her and served as her pimp for years.
“Given Ms. Kruzan’s age at the time of the murder, and considering the significant abuse she suffered at his hands, I believe Ms. Kruzan’s sentence is excessive,” the governor wrote in his commutation message, “it is apparent that Ms. Kruzan suffered significant abuse starting at a vulnerable age.”
This January, a Riverside judge further reduced her first-degree murder conviction to second degree, making her immediately eligible for release.
TRAGIC DEATH OF 13-YEAR-OLD CALLS ATTENTION TO FAILED REPLICA GUN LEGISLATION
Last Tuesday, a Sonoma County deputy fatally shot thirteen-year-old Andy Lopez who was holding a pellet gun that the officer mistook for an assault rifle. This heartbreaking death is calling attention to failed a California bill that would have required replica guns like the one Andy was holding to be made of transparent or neon plastic. The bill, supported by LA Police Chief Charlie Beck, was defeated with help from the National Rifle Association and pellet and paintball gun vendors.
The Center for Public Integrity’s Susan Ferriss has the story. Here’s a clip:
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat newspaper has detailed emotional protests alleging excessive force by Sonoma County law enforcement after a sheriff’s deputy on Tuesday fired at teenager Andy Lopez, killing him. Deputies came across the boy in his “wine country” community around 3:15 p.m. as he was walking down a road, on his way home, carrying a pellet gun fashioned to closely resemble an AK-47. The pellet gun belonged to a friend.
Taking cover behind vehicle doors, deputies told the boy, whose back was to them, to drop what they believed was a real gun. Andy began to turn toward them, according to law enforcement officials. A deputy reportedly thought the boy was raising the gun and fired. Andy was hit seven times, according to reports.
In 2012, the Center for Public Integrity reported on how pressure from retail stores and the National Rifle Association helped defeat a bill by Sen. Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat, who came up with the proposal in response to similar police shootings of boys playing with replica guns.
The bill would have required replica guns like the one Andy was carrying be made with transparent bodies or in certain neon colors. The measure had the support of Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who invoked the tragic 2010 shooting of another 13-year-old boy who was paralyzed when L.A. police officers came upon boys playing with toy guns and ended up shooting one.
“Backers said the measure (de Leon’s) was designed to try to prevent shootings of innocent young people by police officers who have to make split-second decisions,” the Center’s story said.
LA TIMES READERS DISTURBED BY TOP CALIFORNIA PRISON PSYCHIATRIST’S CLAIMS
In a story last Wednesday on impending policy changes regarding the use of pepper spray on mentally ill prisoners in California, the LA Times’ Paige St. John noted that California’s senior prison psychiatrist Dr. John Lindgren testified in front of a federal judge that he thought mentally ill inmates would have no memory of being pepper sprayed and likely have a higher pain tolerance than other prisoners. (We linked to St. John’s earlier story on the issue, here.)
On Sunday, the LA Times published several letters from readers outraged by the prison psychiatrists claims. Here is the first:
It is distressing to read a correctional psychiatrist’s assertion that psychotic prisoners “would have no memory” of being repeatedly pepper-sprayed and “have a higher than average threshold for pain or noxious stimuli.”
The claim that psychotic illness would prevent a person from remembering physical pain has no basis in science. Regarding pain thresholds, a growing body of literature documents post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in psychotic people subjected to excessive force.
Since the defunding of public psychiatry in the 1980s, prisons have increasingly played a custodial role for people who are severely mentally ill. As a society, we have chosen to treat such people as criminals first and patients second. The results: huge bills, little healing and the brutality The Times describes.
Thomas R. Blair, MD
CALIFORNIA STARTS MOVING INMATES TO PRIVATE PRISONS
The state has begun the transfer of prisoners to private prison facilities in an effort to comply with a federal court order to reduce the prison population by about 9000 inmates before a now twice-extended deadline. (Backstory: here.)
(We are unclear on why there is a need to start moving prisoners this far in advance of the deadline and a decision on the part of the judges as to whether California will ultimately be given a three-year extension.)
Katie Orr has the story over on KPBS. Here’s a small clip:
James Black, with the GEO group that operates the facilities said GEO’s prisons must meet the same standards required for the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“All of our facilities are ACA accredited, American Correctional Association accredited. We still operate under the oversight of the entity that we are contracted with. So we still operate under, basically, CDCR oversight,” Black said.
Black said California is paying GEO $60 per inmate per day. He expects all 2,100 transfers to be complete by the beginning of December. The inmates require medium-level security.
BY THE WAY…
Jack Leonard of the LA Times has an interesting story about inmates falsely claiming homelessness to avoid home detention that is worth checking out. (We’re looking into the issue ourselves, and will likely have something on the topic soon, so stay tuned.)