Skip to content

Cyntoia Granted Clemency by Tennessee Governor After Life Sentence

Cyntoia Brown Story : The heartbreaking facts of the crime for which Cyntoia Brown served 15 years of a life sentence ultimately resulted in Cyntoia granted clemency. At the Cyntoia Brown clemency hearing in 2018, the Tennessee governor heard arguments that she was only 16 when given a life sentence with parole eligibility in 51 years. 

Above all, Brown’s attorneys argued she acted in self-defense and did not commit murder. She admitted to killing Johnny Allen, a Nashville real estate agent who paid her for sex, in 2004 because she thought he was trying to kill her. However, prosecutors claimed she planned to rob Allen ahead of time. Pleas for her clemency petition came from celebrities, journalists and many criminal defense advocates. 

What really happened to Cyntoia Brown?

Cyntoia Brown’s Controversial Criminal Conviction for Murder :Brown’s traumatic childhood and the abuse she endured as a minor forced into sex work made her conviction controversial. Also, her young age at the time of conviction called into question her being tried and convicted as an adult. 

How Old was Cyntoia Brown when she was convicted ?

Cyntoia Brown was 16 years old when she was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Johnny Michael Allen as per documentary film "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story"

Sex Trafficking of a Minor

Furthermore, many advocates pointed out that she was a child victim of sex trafficking at the time she killed Allen. She could not legally consent to working as a prostitute. Her lawyers argued that she should not be sentenced to prison for crimes she committed while being raped and exploited as a minor.

During that time, a pimp called "Kut Throat" forced her to be raped by countless men and took the money she earned. Brown testified that she was afraid Allen would either kill her with his gun or leave without paying her. Undoubtedly, a beating would ensue from her pimp if she returned without money from Allen. 

Racial Discrimination in Sentencing

Additionally, the fact that Brown is African American and received an exceptionally harsh sentence for killing a white male was troubling. Likewise, Allen was much older than Brown at 43 years old. Her advocates contended that Brown’s difficult childhood and the power imbalance between her and Allen were important factors that should have weighed against such a long sentence. 

Cyntoia Brown’s Impressive Transformation in Prison 

Unfortunately, Brown served 15 years at the Tennessee Prison for Women. During her sentence, Brown took college courses through Lipscomb University. This year, she expects to earn her undergraduate degree. 

After the good news of Cyntoia granted clemency, she expressed interest in using her education to help other young people. In addition, she stated that she wants to raise awareness of child victims of sex trafficking. 

Commutation of Cyntoia Brown’s Sentence

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted Brown’s clemency petition and ordered her release from prison in August of 2019. He commuted her sentence so that she did not have to serve any more time in prison. 

If she had to serve her original sentence, she would not have been eligible for parole for another 36 years. Instead of waiting that long, she started on parole right away for a 10-year term. She must complete a re-entry program to transition out of prison life. Also, she promised not to violate any state or federal laws on release. 

Finally, Haslam noted that the laws related to the human trafficking of minors need attention. Rather than imposing prison sentences on minors forced into prostitution, Haslam suggested that human trafficking laws do more to protect minors from exploitation. 

Factors Considered in the Cyntoia Brown Clemency Hearing

This case was high profile and involved Governor Haslam commenting in detail about Brown’s clemency petition. The reasons he mentioned for granting Brown’s clemency petition are helpful for other prisoners hoping to receive early release or commuted sentences. 

Severity of Cyntoia Brown’s Sentence

First of all, the severity of Brown’s life sentence attracted widespread attention from the media, celebrities, politicians and criminal defense attorneys. Governor Haslam decried that Brown received a life sentence for a situation she endured as a teenager. He characterized Brown’s sentence as unreasonable in light of her age, history of exploitation and fear of violence from both Allen and her pimp. 

Supreme Court Ruling on Life Sentences for Juveniles Without Parole

Secondly, Governor Haslam acknowledged that the Supreme Court rule in 2016 that life sentences without parole for a juvenile offender are unconstitutional. This argument did not work in Brown’s appeals because parole eligibility kicked in for her in 51 years. Even though she would have to wait until 2055 for parole, the Tennessee appellate court held that Brown’s sentence actually allowed for parole. Even so, Haslam commented that life sentences for juvenile offenders are generally harsh. 

Cyntoia Brown’s Model Behavior in Prison

Governor Haslam was particularly impressed with how much self-improvement work Brown performed in prison. She had model behavior and helped other inmates. Also, she spoke openly about wanting to continue on that same path after her release from prison. 

Filing a Petition for Clemency 

Cyntoia Brown’s success in seeking clemency encourages other prisoners to consider whether they could seek early release from prison. The following considerations in filing a clemency petition demonstrate why having competent criminal defense counsel advising you can streamline the application process for you. 

Difference Between State and Federal Crimes

Remember that the clemency petition process is different for state and federal crimes. Only the president can grant clemency petitions for federal crimes. On the other hand, states determine their own procedures and requirements for clemency petitions for state crimes. 

As such, the first step in considering a clemency petition is identifying whether your case involves a state or federal crime. Furthermore, a defendant may have convictions for both state and federal crimes. In those situations, it is even more important to consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense advocate. After all, you want to maximize all possibilities for a reduced prison sentence or pardon. 

Rehabilitative Efforts in Prison

Cyntoia Brown’s case shows that a defendant’s efforts at rehabilitation and pursuing a productive life go a long way in seeking clemency. An experienced defense attorney can help advise an inmate on effective steps that they can take to improve their chance of securing clemency. 

How old is Cyntoia Brown ?

Cyntoia Brown Long born on January 29, 1988 is  31 years old as of 2019

Who are cyntoia brown parents?

Cyntoia brown parents are Ellenette brown  (Mother ) and Thomas Brown (Father)

What nationality is Cyntoia Brown?

Cyntoia Brown has American Nationality

Juvenile Offenders Serving Life Sentences May Have Grounds for Early Release

The 2016 Supreme Court ruling that found life sentences without the possibility of parole unconstitutional for juvenile defendants. If you or a loved one are serving a life sentence without parole for a crime committed as a minor, you may have good grounds for a clemency petition. 

Call Brandon Sample PLC for Assistance with Your Clemency Petition

 In sum, even if your criminal case does not attract the attention of celebrities, there are still resources to help you seek clemency. Working with the skilled criminal defense team at Brandon Sample PLC is a major step towards resolving your criminal case. We understand the complexities of criminal procedure and can ensure that your clemency petition meets all of the requirements. 

 Call 802-444-4357 to consult with experienced criminal defense attorneys about the potential clemency options for your criminal case. 

About Brandon Sample

Brandon Sample is an attorney, author, and criminal justice reform activist. Brandon’s law practice is focused on federal criminal defense, federal appeals, federal post-conviction relief, federal civil rights litigation, federal administrative law, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Recommended for you

X Tennessee Governor Grants Clemency to 11 Current and Former Felons

Bill Haslam Clemency Update : Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam ordered four sentence commutations for state prisoners and pardons for seven non-incarcerated individuals in the last two weeks of 2018. Whom did Bill haslam granted clemency ? In a news release, Haslam said the seven who were given pardons, listed below,...

Trump Doj news : Reformers to Trump – “Take the Federal Clemency Process Out of DOJ’s Hands”

Trump Doj news update : When President Trump signed the First Step Act into law at the end of last year. Its bipartisan congressional support demonstrated widespread recognition that the criminal justice system is due for reform. Recognizing that the Act is limited in scope, primarily addressing sentencing for a...

The Presidential Pardon Power – What is a presidential pardon ?

Presidential Pardon Power power comes from the constitution. The president may reduce a prisoner’s sentence or pardon him for any federal crimes. Some presidents use this power to help rectify injustices from outdated mandatory minimum sentence laws. It often results in faster results than waiting for Congress to change laws. ...

Leave a Comment





Scroll To Top