Prof. Hawthorne cites scientific evidence in juvenile sentencing story

Clinical Professor Christopher Hawthorne was quoted by The Press-Enterprise in a story about Sara Kruzan, a woman who was sentenced to life without parole in 1995 for a murder she committed when she was 17 years old. 


The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that juvenile brain development “precludes most 16- and 17-year-olds from making the most rational choices,” said Christopher Hawthorne, a clinical professor of law and director of the Juvenile Innocence & Fair Sentencing Clinic at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

"Someone who is older, a person 30 years of age, is a very different person (from the one) who committed a crime at age 16 or 17,” Hawthorne said in a telephone interview. “Someone who committed a crime at age 40, they are not going to be that different at age 60.” But the adult who committed crimes as a minor “is capable of being redeemed, in most cases,” he said.

“You don’t need to exonerate or pardon kids at trial, you just can’t make up your mind about them forever when they are 16 or 17 years old,” he said.

Hawthorne said other than the death-sentence ban, the legislative changes and court rulings of recent years have mostly provided post-sentencing remedies for juveniles, rather than reconfiguring the sentencing law itself.

Hawthorne said Kruzan’s case contained another element of controversy for juvenile defendants given life sentences – the influence of an adult on the crime, and the defendant’s history as a battered victim. Kruzan said she killed and robbed her former pimp at the urging of a new adult man in her life, and testified that she feared for life.