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.”