Case of Sara Kruzan Inspires Protections for Trafficking Survivors

June 18, 2013

Senator Yee’s SB 327 to end revictimization of survivors

SACRAMENTO –The Assembly Public Safety Committee voted unanimously in favor of Senator Leland Yee’s (D-San Francisco/San Mateo Senate Bill (SB) 327, which would assure that survivors of human trafficking are given the legal protections they require.

The bill was inspired by the case of Sara Kruzan, which perfectly illustrates the need to give consideration to a history of trafficking and abuse. Raised in Riverside by an abusive drug addict, Kruzan was sexually assaulted at age 11 by the man who, by age 13, would become her pimp.  After years of exploitation and abuse, she killed him when she was 16, and despite both the California Youth Authority and a psychiatric evaluation determining that she was amenable to rehabilitation, was sentenced to life without parole. Last week, she was given for a parole grant, giving the California Parole Board 120 days to approve the recommendation for parole. After that period, provided the Board approves the parole, the Governor will have 30 days to allow or deny Kruzan’s release.

Yee’s SB 327 will allow survivors such as Kruzan, who have been convicted of a violent crime against their trafficker to pursue a writ of habeas corpus which could be used to challenge their original conviction. If the trafficking survivor did not have experts testify to the effects of long-standing abuse in their case, they would have another opportunity to introduce evidence which could be a mitigating factor in sentencing. These protections already apply to survivors of domestic violence who suffer similar physical abuse and psychological trauma.

“Our system of justice must consider the context when prosecuting a survivor of human trafficking,” said Yee. “The case of Sara Kruzan demonstrates clearly that we must take into account the suffering undergone by survivors of human trafficking if we want a fair and appropriate response.”

In addition, SB 327 will require the Board of Parole Hearings to give weight to any information or evidence that, at the time of the commission of the crime, the prisoner was a victim of human trafficking.

Human trafficking is an estimated $32 billion-a-year global industry. After drug trafficking, human trafficking is the world's second most profitable criminal enterprise. The United States is one of the top destination countries for trafficking in persons, and California - a populous border state with a significant immigrant population and the world's ninth largest economy - is one of the nation's top four destination states for trafficking human beings.

Yee was also the author of SB 9, which ended the practice of sentencing minors to life without the possibility of parole. During that campaign, Kruzan’s case gathered enough attention that then-Governor Schwarzenegger commuted her sentence from life without parole to twenty five years with the possibility of parole. She has been in prison since 1995.

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Contact: Dan Lieberman,

(916) 651-4008