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11 Weather Alerts Photo by: TN Dept. of Corrections Cyntoia Brown was serving a life sentence for the 2004 murder of a man who had picked her up for sex. Her lawyers say she was a sex-trafficking victim who had feared for her life. NATION-WORLD Cyntoia Brown granted clemency for 2004 Tennessee murder Cyntoia Brown’s lawyers argued that the then-16-year-old was a sex trafficking victim and feared for her life when she shot and killed a man. Author: KIMBERLEE KRUESI , Associated Press Published: 12:40 PM EST January 7, 2019 Updated: 3:55 PM EST January 7, 2019
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A woman who says she was a 16-year-old sex trafficking victim when she killed a man in 2004 was granted clemency Monday by Tennessee’s governor and will be released from prison.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted clemency Monday to Cyntoia Brown, who had been serving a life sentence but who will be released on parole on Aug. 7.
“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, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life,” Haslam said in his statement.
Brown will remain on parole supervision for 10 years on the condition she does not violate any state or federal laws, holds a job, and participates in regular counseling sessions. She is now 30 years old.
Brown’s case has attracted national attention from criminal justice reform advocates, and attention has amped up as Haslam’s second and final term entered its final weeks.
Celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and singer Rihanna threw their support behind the fight for her release. The governor’s office was inundated with thousands of phone calls and emails from supporters.
“Thank you Governor Haslam,” West tweeted soon after news of the clemency decision broke. The system has failed. It’s heart breaking to see a young girl sex trafficked then when she has the courage to fight back is jailed for life! We have to do better & do what’s right. I’ve called my attorneys yesterday to see what can be done to fix this. #FreeCyntoiaBrown pic.twitter.com/73y26mLp7u — Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) November 21, 2017
Brown was convicted in 2006 of murdering 43-year-old Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen two years before. Police said she shot Allen in the back of the head at close range with a loaded gun she brought to rob him after he picked her up at a drive-in theater in Nashville to have sex with her.
However, according to her lawyers, Brown was a victim of sex trafficking who not only feared for her life but also lacked the mental state to be culpable in the slaying because she was impaired by her mother’s alcohol use while she was in the womb.
Brown expressed thanks in a statement released Monday by her legal team.
“I am thankful for all the support, prayers, and encouragement I have received. We truly serve a God of second chances and new beginnings. The Lord has held my hand this whole time and I would have never made it without him,” Brown said. “Let today be a testament to his saving grace.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against life-without-parole sentences for juveniles. However, the state of Tennessee argued successfully in lower courts that it was not in violation of federal law because Brown did have a possibility for parole: She was sentenced to serve at least 51 years of her life sentence.
During her time in prison, Brown completed her GED and took college classes. She is currently one course away from finishing a Bachelor’s degree at Lipscomb University.
Nashville Mayor David Briley praised Haslam’s decision, calling it a “great day for social justice and our city.” Democratic state Sen. Raumesh Akbari said the clemency announcement shows that Tennessee “can show love, compassion and mercy” for people who have experienced trauma.
To date, Haslam has granted five commutations, 15 pardons, and one exoneration. The Republican says he is continuing to review and consider additional clemency requests. Gov. Haslam grants clemency to Cyntoia Brown https://t.co/2IKgymyDPZ pic.twitter.com/8rQcocdIye — WBIR Channel 10 (@wbir) January 7, 2019 Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.