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Last Updated: 09/12/2012Free Sara Kruzan
Jesaka Sekmet, co-founder of Free Sara Kruzan, explains the details of Sara's story and the circumstances around her conviction to life in prison. On September 18, 2012 Riverside District Attorney Paul Zellerbach will decide whether Sara will be released with time served. The National Campaign to Free Sara Kruzan is currently petitioning, educating and demonstrating for Sara’s immediate release.
International Peace Builders & Human Rights Activists,
Since my time at UPEACE (Peace Education, Class of 2009) I have come to work with the Global Human Rights Campaign to Free Sara Kruzan. You've never heard of Sara? I'm not surprised. See, she's been locked up on a life with no possibility of parole sentence in the United States, since she was a child in 1994. I remember that day, when I first saw her on the news. I was 12 and in state custody. Sara was 3 and 3/4 years older than me, yet I related to Sara to a T. Sara had been a victim of child sex slavery, more commonly known as child prostitution. Sara had been pushed to the limit and had let off the shot that ended the life of her sex captor. Then at that age, I knew how it felt to have to hurt someone in your self defense or otherwise to endure increased violence. Thus, from then in 1994, I resolved that I would find Sara Kruzan one day and see that she were given some opportunity to rehabilitate, rather than to face life in prison without any possibility of parole.
During my MA Program I caught up with Kim Deanne of Free Sara Kruzan and by 2010 I started producing content on behalf of the national campaign. Now in 2012, I am volunteering my time, around the clock, to ensure that Sara Kruzan is released at the nearest date possible. I have reviewed all of her court documents (available upon request) and here I would like to share with you her story, in sum. For more information, for Sara's Story, Human Rights Watch Video, all interviews and requests, you may contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jesaka Sekmet, Recording Artist
Peace Education, Class of 2009 :)
Sara Kruzan (d.o.b. January 8, 1978) is a survivor of child molestation, rape, of child-sex trafficking and of intimate battering. March 10, 1994, when child-sex captor G. G. Howard was motioning to rape Sara inside of a hotel room, Sara let off the fatal gunshot that ended her 5-year child sex-captors life. A year later on May 10, 1995, at the age of 17, Sara was convicted of the first degree murder [PC 187] of George Gilbert Howard. Sara was sentenced to life in prison, plus four years, with no possibility of parole. Signed on December 31, 2010, the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, commuted Sara’s sentence to life with the possibility of parole, come 2020.
Sara Kruzan grew up in Riverside, California with an older sister and a single mother on welfare. Sara’s father was an ex-convict and heroine addict. On one of three occasions when Sara met her father, she witnessed him shooting up heroin in a bathroom. Sara’s mother was mentally ill, emotionally unstable and addicted to cocaine. She battered Sara and Sara’s sister physically and psychologically since they were infants. In one of Sara’s earliest memories, her mother smacked her across the face until blood splattered from her nose onto a nearby dresser. Child Protective Services opened an investigation in 1989, due to being notified (by Sara’s school) of bruises on Sara’s body. In 1993, Child Protective Services determined it to be unsafe for Sara to reside with her mother.
Sara was molested by several of the men her mother brought home. Sara’s earliest memory of molestation is cited at age five. As these incidents persisted, Sara’s mother did nothing to stop them, but instead displayed jealousy and blamed Sara. Sara was exposed to her mother’s sex and drug activity. By fourth grade, Sara started cutting. By age 11, Sara began to leave home without permission. Sara’s mother showed no sign of concern. Instead, she physically assaulted Sara and forced her out of her residence. At age 11, Sara was hospitalized for attempted suicide. Rather than to provide Sara with adequate safety, the State sent Sara home.
At age 11, George Gilbert Howard picked up Sara as she was walking home from school. G. G. bribed Sara with ice cream, then took her to his residence, where he undressed her and molested her, thereby committing a first degree felony sexual assault. From that date forward, G. G. Howard indoctrinated Sara into the child-sex trade. At age 12, Sara’s mother set Sara up with a 23 year old “mentor”, who furnished Sara with alcohol and raped her repeatedly over the course of a year. [In the State of California under PC 261.5, sex with a minor is defined as rape.] At age 13, Sara was gang raped by three men. Sara’s mother refused to allow Sara to press charges. She insisted it would backfire and that Sara had “asked for it”.
At age 13, 33 year old George Gilbert Howard raped Sara Kruzan [PC 261.5] then immediately began to sexually exploit Sara, selling her body for three years in the child-sex trade. G. G. Howard threatened Sara and set her in dangerous situations, in addition to the dangers of prostitution. At age 15, Sara was hospitalized when she survived a fatal car crash. Sara was then placed in five or six foster care homes, while she repeatedly ran away to return to G. G. Howard over the course of five months.
Plans to Escape
November of 1993, Sara attempted to escape a life of prostitution by going to Ontario with a 15 year old male friend. Sara’s mother threatened to report kidnap, ergo Sara returned to her mother’s neighborhood. Sara’s friend found a place where the two could temporarily stay with a friend’s uncle, James Earl Hampton. “James Earl” was a convicted felon and drug dealer out on parole. (James E. Hampton, Prisoner ID P23654, has since been convicted of rape and attempted murder, and is serving out a life sentence in the State of California.) As James Earl bragged of the murders he committed, waved guns and threatened to take Sara’s friends life, Sara hoped to borrow money from G. G. to get her own apartment. When James Earl caught wind of this, he demanded Sara follow his instructions to rob and murder G. G. if she wished that she and her loved ones survive.
The Crime Scene
March 9, 1994, James Earl Hampton garnered Sara Kruzan with a pistol and a pager. He ordered Sara to call G. G. Howard to arrange that the two of them meet. James Earl Hampton brought Sara to where G. G. picked her up to take her to a movie theater. Sara began to receive several pages from James Hampton, instructing “187? (as she knew to be the California Penal Code Section for Murder). G. G. escorted Sara to the same hotel room where he had raped her on prior occasions. While G. G. payed for the room, Sara called James Earl and asked to speak with her friend who was held hostage. James Earl declined to allow it and threatened Sara that she would not survive if she did not follow through with the murder and robbery of G. G. Howard.
Passed midnight, in the hotel room, 36 year old G. G. Howard put on a pornographic movie and began undressing and touching 16 year old Sara. G. G. took out a large sex toy. Sara dreaded being raped by G. G. Howard. When G. G. turned to plug the sex toy into the wall, Sara shot him. Sara took G. G. Howard’s money and keys, but left behind her purse, identification and shoes. She delivered the car and money to James Earl. James held a gun to Sara’s head and instructed her of what to say if she were questioned. James Earl brought Sara to some other residence where he ordered she be kept locked away in a room. When James Earl brought Sara to his mothers house, she was arrested. Sara initially repeated the story that James Earl demanded, yet she soon confessed to the shooting.
Her Life Sentence
Sara was 16 years old and had no priors. The convicted James Earl Hampton and the minor (then a friend of Sara’s) were never brought to trial. Sara’s defense counsel, David Gunn, advised Sara to take the case to trial. Sara Kruzan was tried in Riverside County Superior Court, with Judge J. Thompson Hanks presiding. The testimony lasted two and a half days. The jurors were not aware that George Gilbert Howard had sexually assaulted, raped and indoctrinated Sara into the child-sex trade for five years. While no expert witnesses spoke in Sara’s defense, Sara agreed to nearly every leading question the prosecutor asked. The probation officer assigned to Sara Kruzan’s case overlooked PC 190.5, that granted court discretion to sentence minors convicted of first degree murder to 25 to life with the possibility of parole. The officer incorrectly stated that State law required the court to sentence Sara to life without possibility of parole. On May 10, 1995, at the age of 17, Sara was sentenced to life in prison, plus four years, without possibility of parole.
Two key experts independently concluded that Sara suffered from the effects of intimate partner battering at the time of the shooting and that expert testimony would have affected the outcome of the criminal proceedings. After a thorough evaluation of Sara Kruzan and her documents, Dr. Linda S. Barnard concluded that, “Sara was suffering from the effects of intimate partner battering in March 1994 and her behaviors and actions were affected – if not controlled by – the years of abuse she endured. By failing to have an expert on intimate partner battering and its effects to explain the many complexities involved in this case, Sara Kruzan’s defense was severely limited.” Dr. Nancy Kaser-Boyd concluded, “Ms. Kruzan clearly suffered the common effects of intimate partner battering on the night of the shooting. Most young people [suffering from intimate partner battering and its effects] respond well to therapy and become healthy adults with therapeutic intervention.”
Free Sara Kruzan
Free Sara Kruzan was founded in 2006, by Kim Deanne, whose dedication was inspired by her friend Sara Kruzan to combat her plight as a victim of child-sex slavery and subsequently being sentenced as a youth to life in prison with no possibility of parole. In 2012, Free Sara Kruzan is a National Campaign run by three women (Kim Deanne, Jesaka Sekmet and Carrie Christie), whose mission is to raise awareness of Sara’s story, to facilitate her release from prison and to prevent all forms of child-sex slavery. With the aid of international supporters and Sara’s 2007 interview by Human Rights Watch (see: external links), on the last day of 2010, Sara’s sentence was commuted by Governor Schwarzenegger to 25 to life with the possibility of parole. Sara currently resides in an honors dorm in a women’s facility in the State of California. Sara has earned a college degree and has been named Woman of the Year by Correctional Officers. Sara’s final appeal to be released with time served was dated July 19, 2012, yet granted a 60 day extension. On September 18, 2012 Riverside District Attorney Paul Zellerbach will decide whether Sara will be released with time served. The National Campaign to Free Sara Kruzan is currently petitioning, educating and demonstrating for Sara’s immediate release.
Jesaka Saylove Sekmet is a peace scholar, hip-hop artist, and radio personality. Check her out at Saylove Music.