Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has granted executive clemency to Cyntoia Brown, who has been serving a life sentence for a murder she committed when she was 16 years old. Brown’s cause was championed by a number of celebrities, including Rihanna.
Brown’s supporters have said she acted in self-defense when she killed a man who had paid to have sex with her, describing her as a victim of human trafficking who was preyed upon when she was homeless. They also say Brown has remade herself while in prison — and on Monday, Haslam agreed.
Calling it “a tragic and complex case,” Haslam said that 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 said, “especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life. Transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”
Those conditions include Brown being released on parole — and a promise that she won’t violate any state or federal laws. She can leave prison on Aug. 7, and Haslam said she will need to complete “re-entry programming” to help her reintegrate into the community.
Brown, 30, is currently incarcerated at the Tennessee Prison for Women. She has said a pimp named “Kut Throat” forced her into prostitution and that this is what eventually led her to kill 43-year-old Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen in 2004. Allen had taken Brown to his house after picking her up at a restaurant.
Brown has already served 15 years in prison; she wouldn’t have been eligible for parole until she had served at least 36 more years, as member station Nashville Public Radio reports. Now, if all goes as planned, she will be on parole for the next 10 years instead of in prison.
In a statement released by her attorneys, Brown said, “Thank you, Governor Haslam, for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance. I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me.”
She also thanked “those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who saw something in me worth salvaging,” as well as educators from Lipscomb University, whom she credited with “opening up a whole new world for me.”
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SOURCE: NPR, Bill Chappell