The unjust imprisonment of former child sex slave Cyntoia Brown drew outrage in late November after her story caught the attention of Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and other public figures. Now a team of lawyers, which includes those which Kardashian called upon to rectify the injustices Brown has faced, are working to have her life sentence commuted.
At 16 years old, Brown was sentenced to life in prison for killing one of the men who sexually exploited her.
A 2011 documentary highlighting Brown’s story revealed she was forced into a life of prostitution by a man who repeatedly made threatened her and her family if she didn’t comply with his demands to sleep with him and other men.
In 2004, Brown killed one of those men. Brown said 43-year-old real estate agent Johnny Allen’s discomforting demeanor, military history and the multiple firearms she observed in his home made her fear for her safety.
As of now, Brown will only be eligible for parole when she’s 64 years old. A team of lawyers have filed a formal request to the parole board to reduce Brown’s sentence from first degree murder to second degree murder. If they adhere, Brown could be released in 2018.
“I would urge you to commute Ms. Brown’s sentence from first degree murder to second degree murder in order to better align Ms. Brown’s sentence without understanding of human trafficking, adverse childhood experiences and adolescent brain development while still holding her accountable for her actions,” Nashville Mayor Megan Barry wrote in a letter attached to the petition.
While in prison, Brown attained her associate’s degree from Lipscomb University and is currently working toward her bachelor’s. She also works as a volunteer consultant with the Juvenile Justice System. Lipscomb professors as well as the university’s president wrote letters on Brown’s behalf.
WSET, who first resurfaced Brown’s story in November noted that Tennessee courts have ceased use of the term child prostitution as children don’t have the capacity to consent. Unfortunately, no such an understanding was had when Brown was sentenced.