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Tennessee Governor Grants Full Clemency to Cyntoia Brown

"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," said Gov. Bill Haslam.

Cyntoia Brown, a sex trafficking victim who was sentenced to life in prison for killing a man who picked her up for sex when she was 16 years old, was granted executive clemency by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.


Brown, now 30, was granted a full commutation to parole. She will be released to parole supervision on Aug. 7, after serving 15 years in prison. She was tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder in 2006.

"This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case," Haslam said, in a statement, released on Monday.

"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."

Last month, a ruling by The Tennessee Supreme Court that Brown had to serve at least 51 years in prison before she could be released, sparked outrage. Celebrities, politicians, and the public at large advocated for her clemency.

At a higher education event in December, while Haslam was delivering remarks, Justin Laing, a member of Black Lives Matter Nashville, pressed him about the ruling.

"Since we're here talking about education, I wanted to ask a question about one of your students and graduates of Lipscomb University, Cyntoia Brown," said Laing, who is also a higher education professional.

Haslam responded that he was in review of her clemency.

On Saturday, several dozen supporters of Brown attended a rally in Nashville, pleading for her clemency.

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.

"Parole supervision for Brown will continue until Aug. 7, 2029, at which point Brown's sentence will expire," according to Haslam's office. "She will complete re-entry programming prior to her release from custody in August in order to facilitate a successful transition to the community."

"While in prison, Brown has earned her GED and completed an associate degree in 2015 through the Lipscomb LIFE program with a 4.0 GPA. It is anticipated that she will complete a bachelor's degree in 2019. Numerous Department of Correction employees and volunteers attest to her extraordinary personal transformation while incarcerated, which will allow her to be a positive influence on the community upon release."

Charles Bone and J. Houston Gordon, Brown's lead attorneys, said in a statement:

"This is truly a joyful moment – for Cyntoia and for all of us who have worked to help her."

The Conversation (6)
Gregg w. Morris07 Jan, 2019

Thank the gods that this obscene injustice is over,

Tonya L07 Jan, 2019

I am so thrilled to hear this and I pray God's blessings for her. Our God is a God of second chances and I feel this young woman deserves this chance to live her life. Thank you God.

Kathryn O'Brien07 Jan, 2019

I am hopeful that this young woman will take care of his opportunity to make a good life for herself. But make no mistake about it...she has suffered since childhood from adults who didn't give her a chance for a normal life. We need to help her get a late start on the life she wants.

Dawn09 Jan, 2019

This is such wonderful news! I hope Miss Brown will have a long happy healthy life, and be able to put this horrible injustice behind her. Her childhood has already been stolen from her, I hope Miss Brown will have a long happy healthy life, and be able to put this horrible injustice behind her.

votetocorrect08 Jan, 2019
Tennessee Governor Grants Full Clemency to Cyntoia Brown, was the right thing to do!

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The population of Memphis is 63.9 percent Black and 29.2 percent white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In November, London Lamar, a Black woman and newly-elected democratic state lawmaker from Memphis, said, in a now deleted Facebook video discussing results of the midterm elections:

"Tennessee's racist. Period. Period. Like, Tennessee is racist." She also added that Republican voters are uneducated.

After facing criticism from some constituents, Lamar issued an apology, saying "we want to make sure we don't over-generalize groups of people."

But she also added that race did play a role in the midterm elections. Lamar said that the many who voted Republican based their votes "on racially-charged rhetoric" that's coming from the White House.

Lamar ran uncontested in the state's House District 91 and took office in January.