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Clemency and LWOP for Under-18 Killers

Another of the Governator's last-minute clemencies was for Sara Kruzan, who committed murder at the age of 16.  Her cause was championed by State Senator Leland Yee, who for the last several years has been pushing legislation to create a possibility of parole for all under-18 murderers.

The National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Lifers cites the Kruzan clemency as evidence that Yee's legislation is unnecessary.  There are already enough safety valves in the system.  Their press release follows the jump.

For Immediate Release January 3, 2011

CONTACT: Daniel Horowitz: 510-326-6957
                    Jennifer Bishop Jenkins, Communications: 847-331-2704
                    Charles "Cully" Stimson, Senior Legal Fellow, 202-546-4400


Sacramento - The announcement this weekend that departing Governor Schwarzenegger has commuted the life sentence of Sara Kruzan, a Riverside county prostitute who committed murder at age 16 and whose cause was championed by Senator Leland Yee, is proof that Yee's legislation SB 9 is not at all necessary. In fact, the legislation's proposals, opposed by many including the California District Attorneys Association, undermine the effective working of the criminal justice system.

Twice in recent years Senator Yee has pushed failed legislation in Kruzan's name to retroactively offer parole to some of the worst murderers in the state. Such blanket legislation would not only traumatize crime victims and ignore their constitutional rights, but also endangers the public and adds exorbitant expense to an already strained legal system.

 The California legislature has wisely twice rejected Senator Yee's bills attempting to abolish life sentences for rare and extremely heinous aggravated murders committed by 16 and 17 year olds (JLWOP "juvenile life without parole") with broad opposition from law enforcement, victims, and other groups concerned with public safety.

The National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Lifers  (www.teenkillers.org) issued the following statement from prominent California Attorney and NOVJL President Daniel Horowitz: "Whether people agree or not with the underlying decision of the Governor about the merits of this killer's clemency case, Kruzan's case is Exhibit #1 why states should not enact legislation retroactively abolishing JLWOP sentences.  JLWOP for juvenile killers is entirely appropriate, effective, and constitutional, and all states should have the sentence as an option---period. Most states already do. Executive grace (clemency) is a core, state constitutional power reserved to the governor.  A Governor is directly accountable to the people for his decisions, good or bad.  The system worked." 

Twice in recent years  the United States Supreme Court has affirmed the constitutionality of JLWOP for murder cases, first in the Roper v Simmons decision in 2005, then in 2010's Graham v Florida decision. A significant study on JLWOP nationally called Adult Time for Adult Crimes found the rarely used sentence widely supported throughout the nation, used in several other nations, and legally effective and appropriate for the worst cases of juvenile killers.

Attorney Phyllis Loya, whose son Larry Lasater was a Pittsburg, California police officer murdered in the line of duty, said, "States have an obligation to protect its citizens from the worst of the worst, no matter what their age. And there are more than adequate protections for offenders in the system to make their case for what their appropriate sentence should be. Every offender has appeals, habeus corpus, and clemency opportunities. Juvenile offenders facing transfer to adult court in California have extra layers of hearings and legal protections in which to argue the appropriate disposition of their cases. Senator Yee's bill is completely out of order and made even more obviously so by Governor Schwarzenegger's decision. All juvenile killers in every state have the opportunity to have their sentences reviewed by the governor, and appellate courts."

Charles Stimson, Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. and the author of Adult Time for Adult Crimes said, "The Governor decided to give clemency to Sara Kruzan for reasons that are obvious, and this act alone does more to kill Yee's proposal than all the other reasons to defeat this legislation.  Despite the propaganda campaign by anti-incarceration activists in California, Yee's problematic bill is simply not necessary."


For detailed information on NOVJL, the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Lifers, and the facts of the crime stories of what happened to our loved ones at the hands of teen killers, see our website at www.teenkillers.org.  NOVJL  President Daniel Horowitz, nationally renowned defense attorney, is a frequent guest analyst on national news media, including CNN, MSNBC, Fox and other stations.  His wife was murdered by a "juvenile lifer" in California.


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