31-year-old Cyntoia Brown, who was sentenced to life in prison when she was just 16-years for the murder of a man who allegedly solicited her for sex was released Wednesday morning.
This was after former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam granted her clemency in January, the Tennessee Department of Corrections confirmed, according to CNN.
Released on supervised parole, Brown’s case caught the attention of several Tennessee lawmakers, including a U.S. congressman, as well as, celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Rihanna. This followed the release of a documentary which touched on Brown’s life story and the American criminal justice system.
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After being placed for adoption as a child, Brown, at 16, ran away from her adoptive family and started to live in a motel with a pimp who raped her and forced her into prostitution, according to the New York Times.
On August 8, 2004, Brown was arrested in connection with the shooting of a 43-year-old man, Johnny M. Allen. She told investigators that she killed Allen in self-defence after he paid her for sex and brought her to his house, where he went ahead to show her his collection of guns.
Despite her age, she was tried in an adult court and charged with first-degree murder and aggravated robbery. She was sentenced to life in prison and would not have been eligible for parole until 2055.
In May 2018, the Tennessee board was split in its recommendation to Governor Haslam on granting Brown clemency. The votes ended with two pro-clemency, two against and two to make Brown eligible for parole after 25 years.
In December 2018, a five-member bench of the Tennessee Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Brown must serve 51 years in jail for her crime. It said, “under state law, a life sentence is a determinate sentence of 60 years. However, the sixty-year sentence can be reduced by up to 15 per cent, or 9 years, by earning various sentence credits.”
As calls for Brown’s release gained more grounds, Governor Haslam, in January, granted her executive clemency.