Cyntoia Brown was released from prison early Wednesday morning after being granted clemency by then-Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in January, according to the Tennessee Department of Corrections. Brown was initially sentenced to life in prison for killing a man who bought her for sex when she was 16 and has now been released to parole supervision after spending more than a decade in jail. Her case drew the attention of high-profile advocates, lawmakers, celebrities and prompted a documentary.
What We Know:
- Brown has spent half of her life behind bars. In 2004, she was sentenced to life in prison for killing a 43-year-old man. At 16-years-old, she was tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder, first degree felony murder and aggravated robbery. Brown’s sentence required her to serve at least 51 years in prison before she was eligible for parole. The now 31-year-old was released today after serving 15 years.
- Brown testified at her trial that at 16 she was solicited for sex by Johnny Mitchell Allen. Allen brought her back to his house, where she saw a gun cabinet. Brown testified that she had been forced into prostitution by Allen, a pimp, but resisted. She believed he was going to kill her. In self-defense, she reached for a gun in her purse and shot him, she said. The prosecution argued during her trial that she shot him in an attempt to rob him, because she took his wallet afterward.
- Years after Brown’s sentencing, her case became a widespread conversation on social media, inspiring the viral hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown. Among those promoting her story and advocating for her release online were celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West.
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did we somehow change the definition of #JUSTICE along the way?? cause….. Something is horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life! To each of you responsible for this child’s sentence I hope to God you don’t have children, because this could be your daughter being punished for punishing already! #FREECYNTOIABROWN #HowManyMore
- In prison, Brown received her associate degree from Lipscomb University in 2015 and obtained a bachelor’s degree in the Tennessee Prison for Women in May. She collaborated with Tennessee’s Juvenile Justice System to help counsel young people at risk, and her supporters say she’s been a model inmate during her incarceration.
Netflix has obtained the rights to tell her story and she plans to do philanthropic work as she assimilates into society and gets her life back. Welcome home Cyntoia!