Cyntoia Brown, a woman who was serving a life sentence for a murder she committed at the age of 16, was granted clemency Monday by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, according to The Washington Post.
Brown, now 30, will be released on supervised parole on Aug. 7. She was previously not eligible for parole until she had served at least 51 years, meaning she would have been in her 60s before having a chance at freedom.
“Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16,” Haslam 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.”
About her crime: Brown was convicted of shooting 43-year-old real estate broker Johnny Allen in the back of the head in 2004. Brown and Allen did not previously know each other; Brown said Allen solicited her for sex and took her to his home.
According to Brown, she shot him because she thought he was reaching for a gun while they were in bed. She was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery.
Why this case got so much attention: Brown was the subject of a 2011 documentary titled “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s story. In 2017, celebrities including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian brought attention to the case on social media, with Kardashian even bringing it to the attention of President Donald Trump when she met with him.
Why did she get clemency? Brown’s lawyers and other advocates have said Brown is a victim of sex trafficking. She was born to an alcoholic mother and had run away from her adoptive family to live with an abusive boyfriend who Brown said sexually assaulted her and forced her to work as a prostitute.
Since she’s been incarcerated, she has earned a GED and an associate degree with a 4.0 grade-point average, and she’s one course away from earning a bachelor’s degree.
What did Brown say about the decision? “With God’s help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people,” Brown wrote in a letter that was read at a press conference. “My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been.”
Upon her release, she will have to get a job, finish her degree, attend regular counseling sessions and perform at least 50 hours of community service.