Sentenced to life w/o parole before 18: SB 399 offers 2nd chance

Sara kruzan

UPDATE JANUARY 5, 2011: As one of his final gubernatorial acts, Arnold Schwarzenegger granted clemency to Sara Kruzan, 33, left, a woman convicted of murder when she was 16 (for shooting her pimp, George Howard, who, when she was 13 and he was 34, sexually assaulted her and then put her on the street to prostitute). The clemency consists of reducing Kruzan’s sentence to “from 25 years to life” from “life without parole.” The commutation is encouraging to State Senator Leland Yee, whose former legislation SB399 —  “The Fair Sentencing for Youth Act” — passed the Senate last term, but died in the Assembly. Yee reintroduced the bill (see original reporting, below)to the State Senate last month as SB 9.

Previously reported (January 21, 2010) on this site: State Senator Leland Yee’s (D-San Mateo) SB399 — which would give people who were sentenced to life without parole (LWOP) before the age of 18 the opportunity to have their cases reviewed after serving 10 years — cleared the California State Senate last year, but was rejected by the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

Oh, but what a difference a year — and a Great Recession — makes. Last Tuesday, January 12, the Public Safety Committee passed SB 399 by a vote of 4-2. The bill now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee; as proponents calculate the bill could save the state “millions of dollars”* if passed into law, it is expected to be approved by the money folks and moved on to the full Assembly.

*Fair Sentencing for Youth reports that since 1990, California has spent between $66-83 million incarcerating juveniles to LWOP; if no more were incarcerated as LWOPs, those currently in prison (263; only 4 that are non-homicide cases) would cost the state $500 million between now and their [78.2 year CA life expectancy] deaths.

Photograph is Sara Kruzan, 29, who was sentenced in California to life without parole, plus four years, for killing her pimp.

On November 9, 2009, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in the cases Graham v. Florida and Sullivan v. Florida; both are LWOPs challenging the cruel and unusual punishment laws under the 8th and 14th Amendments. The Court will announce its decisions sometime between now and June 30.

California’s children



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