On November 21st, Cyntoia Brown, the victim of sex trafficking arrested for shooting one of her captors, was sentenced to 51 years in prison. The ruling in Brown’s case sparked outrage worldwide, with even celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian voicing their support for Brown. And today, May 7th, after nearly six months and countless pleas to #FreeCyntoiaBrown, Brown has been granted a clemency hearing.
The Tennessean reported on May 3rd that the hearing was scheduled for May 23rd in the Tennessee Prison for Women. During the clemency hearing, a parole board will decide whether or not Brown should be released, and if the board recommends clemency, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam will either grant Brown her freedom or deny the board’s request. Brown’s case will also be heard by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on June 14th.
Haslam, a Republican serving his last year as governor, has not yet granted clemency to any prisoners. But the Tennessean wrote that governors are sometimes more inclined to grant clemency in their final year in office. And State Representative Jeremy Faison told the New York Times that he has also asked Haslam to consider pardoning Brown instead.
Brown was 16 years old in 2004 when 43-year-old Johnny Allen solicited her for sex. At the time, the teenager had been living with a pimp named Kut Throat, whom she said forced her into sex trafficking. During her trial, Brown said fear for her life led her to shoot and kill Allen with a gun she kept in her purse.
Brown’s case first entered the public eye in 2011, when a documentary about her called Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story aired on PBS. Her story went viral in late November 2017, along with the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown. Celebrities, including Kardashian and Rihanna, also shared her case, with Rihanna writing on Instagram that “something is horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away.”
Given that Brown was convicted more than 10 years ago, her freedom cannot come soon enough. We hope that Brown’s clemency hearing will finally grant her the justice she deserves.