Clemency Is Granted in High-Profile Murder Case

Cyntoia Brown killed a man at age 16 after being forced into prostitution in Tennessee
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 7, 2019 12:10 PM CST
Clemency for Cyntoia Brown
File- This May 23, 2018, file photo shows Cyntoia Brown appearing in court during her clemency hearing at the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville, Tenn.   (Lacy Atkins/The Tennessean via AP, Pool, File)

Cyntoia Brown, the Tennessee woman whose case sparked outrage when she was sentenced to life in prison for what she says was a killing in self-defense when she was 16, won't be spending decades behind bars after all. Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday granted the now-30-year-old Brown a full commutation of her sentence to parole and ordered her early release. She will be eligible for release Aug. 7 on time served, and will be on parole for 10 years. "Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16," the Republican governor said in a statement. "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."

Brown says she was a victim of child sex trafficking, forced into prostitution as a teen by her pimp boyfriend. She fatally shot Johnny Mitchell Allen in 2004 after the 43-year-old solicited her for sex and brought her to his home; she says he was reaching for a gun at the time, but prosecutors said she was trying to rob him. Celebrities including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West took up her cause. Brown got her GED and a college degree while in prison and plans to support social justice causes through her own nonprofit. The terms of Haslam's commutation require her to get a job, attend regular counseling sessions, and perform community service, including supporting at-risk youth. In a statement, she thanked Haslam for his "act of mercy" and the "second chance." WSMV has her full statement, as well as Haslam's, the mayor's, and even Kardashian West's reaction. (More Cyntoia Brown stories.)

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