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Court Says Cyntoia Brown, a Victim of Sex Trafficking, Must Spend 51 Years in Prison

UPDATE: Governor Considering Cyntoia Brown’s Bid for Clemency

ORIGINAL STORY

A recent ruling in the case of Cyntoia Brown, a victim of sex trafficking sentenced to life for killing a man who picked her up for sex when she was a teen, is sparking outrage. The Tennessee Supreme Court has said Brown must serve at least 51 years in prison before she could be released.


Celebrities including Rihanna, LeBron James and T.I. have used social media to advocate for Brown making the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown go viral in 2017.

In 2004, at age 16, Brown ran away from her adoptive parents’ home. She wound up living with a 24-year-old pimp known as “Cut Throat,” who raped and abused her and forced her into prostitution. She was convicted for the killing of a 43-year-old Nashville man, Johnny Allen, while they were in bed. Brown said she feared for her life. But she was charged with first-degree murder.

At the request of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Tennessee Supreme Court made its decision based on a state law that anyone convicted of first-degree murder after July 1, 1995 must serve 51 years before being released.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against life-without-parole sentences for juveniles. Thursday’s ruling will go to the federal appellate court for review.

“In her 2004 trial, Brown explained how there was always a gun being pointed at her,” according to Fox 17 News’ investigation of the case. “She was being hit, choked and dragged” by Cut Throat.

Brown testified she was afraid of Allen, who picked her up and took her to his home. She described him as “an old Caucasian man.”

Allen told her that he used to be in the military, that he was a sharp-shooter, and that he could “shoot the eye out of a piss ant,” according to court documents.

Brown believed he was reaching for his gun when she killed him.

“He was a sharpshooter in the Army,” she said. “I’m sitting here thinking, ‘If he does something, what am I going to do'”

After shooting him, Brown took Allen’s wallet and two guns, drove his truck to a nearby Walmart parking lot and had someone drive her to the hotel where she was later arrested.

During the trial, her mother testified drinking at least a fifth a day while pregnant with Brown. And on appeal, attorneys showed she suffered from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, “which affected her brain and showed up on medical brain scans.”

The jury rejected Brown’s claim of self-defense and found her guilty of first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree felony murder and especially aggravated robbery.

Many outraged by the Tennessee Supreme Court’s decision have taken to Twitter to point out the racial disparities in the criminal justice system:

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