Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has granted clemency to Cyntoia Denise Brown, who had been serving life in prison for murdering a man who purchased her for sex when she was 16 years old.
Brown, 30, has served 15 years in prison since being tried as an adult and convicted of murder and robbery in the 2004 death of Johnny Mitchell Allen, who had brought her to his house after soliciting her for sex.
Given that she took guns and money and fled the scene in Allen’s own truck after shooting him in the head while he slept, prosecutors argued that Brown’s motivation was robbery. Brown said Allen made her fear for her life, however, and that she took the money in order to pay her pimp, called “Cut Throat.” (RELATED: Trump Commutes Sentence Of Alice Johnson At Kim Kardashian’s Request)
Outgoing Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said in a statement that Brown will be released on Aug. 7 to parole supervision.
“This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case,” the governor said, according to CNN. “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. Transformation should be accompanied by hope.”
CNN reported on the change in Tennessee’s juvenile sentencing guidelines since the Brown case:
“If Cyntoia Brown were tried today, legal experts say she would not have been tried in the same way,” said CNN affiliate WZTV anchor Stacy Case, who had been investigating reports of sex trafficking in Tennessee when she came across Brown’s story.
“Our courts today would view her as a child sex slave… she would be viewed as a victim.”
In fact, it was Brown’s trial that inspired a documentary that eventually helped to alter the way Tennessee deals with sex trafficking victims, particularly those who are juveniles.
“If you look at Cyntoia’s original transcripts, they are peppered with the phrase ‘teen prostitute,'” says Derri Smith, founder and CEO of non-profit End Slavery Tennessee.
“Well we know today there’s no such thing as a teen prostitute … because this teen may think that she decided this was her idea to be raped multiple times a day and give money to someone else, it’s pretty clear there’s an adult behind that who’s manipulating and exploiting her.”
Brown has reportedly been a model inmate since beginning her prison term, earning an associate’s degree from Lipscomb University and mentoring troubled youth.