A Tennessee woman serving a life sentence for murdering a man who picked her up at 16 while she was being sex-trafficked is receiving a clemency hearing.
Cyntoia Brown, now 30, has served 13 years in prison for the 2004 murder of real estate agent Johnny Allen, 43. After running away from her adopted family, Brown was living in a motel with a pimp called “Kut Throat.” Brown’s lawyer, Charles Bone, told The New York Times last year that Kut Throat raped and abused Brown as well as forced her to become a prostitute.
Allen picked her up and brought her home to his bed, court documents state. At one point, she believed he was reaching for his gun, so she took a handgun from her purse and shot him, she said.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati agreed Tuesday to hear oral arguments in Brown’s case on June 14, according to a report by The Tennessean. On Thursday, a state parole board agreed to a clemency hearing on May 23 inside the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville where Brown is held.
The Tennessean notes that Brown’s fate is not up to the parole board, as it will merely make a recommendation for or against clemency. Gov. Bill Haslam (R) will ultimately decide.
Haslam is in his last year as governor and has not granted any clemency petitions. But the publication noted that “it is not unusual for governors to grant such petitions in their last year in office.”
The Times reports that many supporters of Brown have “described her as a model inmate.” While in prison, Brown received her GED certificate and earned an associate degree from Lipscomb University, a private Christian college in Nashville.
Brown’s case has been in the spotlight for years, particularly after a 2011 PBS documentary called “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story” came out. The documentary followed Brown’s case from the week of her arrest until her conviction almost six years later. The story picked up steam again six years after the documentary’s release, when a Facebook post about Brown went viral. That post picked up traction when celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Rihanna and LeBron James learned about the case.
In November 2017, Kardashian tweeted: “The system has failed. It’s heart breaking to see a young girl sex trafficked then when she has the courage to fight back is jailed for life! We have to do better & do what’s right. I’ve called my attorneys yesterday to see what can be done to fix this.”