Cyntoia Brown Granted Clemency After 15 Years in Prison

Child sex slave is freed after creating a nationwide stir over her story of survival

Grace Walker, Staff Writer

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In 2004, at the age of 16, Cyntoia Brown killed Johnny Mitchell Allen, a man who had solicited and purchased her for sex. It was reported that Brown shot him in his sleep, stole his money and weapons, and fled the scene using his own vehicle. Brown was imprisoned for 15 years for this incident because of the prosecution’s argument that the killing was motivated by robbery, rather than the alleged self-defense. Cyntoia claims she took Allen’s money in fear of returning empty handed to her pimp “Cut Throat” and took the weapons, as well, to protect herself if any other issues arose upon her fleeing. A juvenile court found Brown in contempt and she was to be tried as an adult. She was sentenced to life in prison for robbery and murder.

Fifteen years later, on January 7th Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam granted Cyntoia Brown clemency. Clemency is the act of granting extended mercy to a convicted individual. Cyntoia, who is now 30 years old, will be released on parole on August 7th of this year. Haslam released a statement about this case. “This decision comes after careful consideration for what is a tragic and complex case…Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16. Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh.” Haslam also stated that the steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life after this crime are monumental, and that the transformation she has made is accompanied by immense hope that she can return to the life she lived before she was incarcerated.

Because Cyntoia was a victim of sex trafficking and tried as an adult, her story sparked backlash. Her case caught the attention of several advocates for cases of this nature, including congressmen, lawmakers, and numerous A-list celebrities, like Amy Schumer, Rihanna, and Kim Kardashian-West who used social media to spreadher story. Since her conviction, juvenile conviction laws in Tennessee have been adjusted. If tried today, she would have been viewed as a child sex slave and the victim of sex trafficking rather than a malicious killer. Her case even inspired a documentary on juvenile sex trafficking victims which helped to amend Tennessee law.

Cyntoia was also the subject of a documentary based on her own story, “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story” where she tells of being forced into prostitution and sold multiple times before she made her decision to kill Johnny Mitchell Allen. Along with Cyntoia being given the chance to tell her own story, new evidence was released that she may have been a victim of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, as it was revealed in a 2014 appeal that her mother drank heavily while pregnant with her.

While in prison, Cyntoia has made large strides to turn her life around before she was even given a second chance. Sources say that she mentored troubled youth and worked on obtaining her college degree. She was even said to have been a model inmate while incarcerated. In 2015, she received her Associates Degree from Lipscomb University and is currently working towards her Bachelors. She also collaborates with Tennessee’s Juvenile Justice System to counsel young people at risk.

On August 7, 2019, Cyntoia Brown will be released under parole supervision because of the clemency granted to her by Haslam. “I learned that my life was-and is-not over” Brown stated to CNN. “I can create opportunities where I can actually help people.” While incarcerated, she began working on starting a nonprofit organization to help other young people in similar situations as her own which she intends to further her exploration into when she is released later this year.

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