A Tennessee woman upheld as an example of unfair sentencing was released from prison Wednesday morning. Cyntoia Brown was over a decade into a life sentence for killing a man as a 16-year-old. She said she was a sex trafficking victim at the time.
Support from prominent celebrities including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West thrust Brown’s case into the national conversation in 2017, with millions of social media users calling for her release with the viral hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown.
View this post on Instagramdid 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
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In 2004, Brown killed Tennessee real estate agent Johnny Allen, then 43, with a shot to the back of the head. Prosecutors argued the murder was motivated by robbery, because Brown stole Allen’s wallet and two guns when she fled, according to court documents.
Brown testified she thought Allen was reaching for a gun from the case under his bed, so she shot him with a gun from her handbag.
Now 31, Brown said she was trafficked by an abusive pimp known as “Cut Throat,” who forced her into sex work after she ran away from her adoptive family.
Brown was tried as an adult and convicted of first degree murder and aggravated assault two years later, and handed down a life sentence with no possibility of parole until 2055.
Tennessee’s outgoing Republican governor, Bill Haslam, granted Brown clemency in January. She had served 15 years of the sentence.
Brown will be on supervised parole for the next decade, provided she sticks to her post-prison release plan, holds a job or continues studying, attends counseling consistently and participates in community service, according to a statement by the Tennessee Department of Correction.
While in prison, Brown earned her GED, equivalent to a high school diploma, and an associate degree through Lipscomb University.
“I look forward to using my experiences to help other women and girls suffering abuse and exploitation,” said Brown in a statement.
Brown has said she will release a book in mid-October, while a new documentary will premiere this year.