Cyntoia Brown, the Tennessee woman who was sentenced to life as a teen for killing a man who bought her for sex, was granted clemency, Governor Bill Haslam said Monday.
Brown was granted a full commutation to parole and will be eligible for release Aug. 7. Brown, now 30 years old, served 15 years in prison. She will, however, remain on parole for 10 years.
After careful consideration of the case, Republican Governor Haslam, who is set to leave office on Jan. 19, gave Cyntoia the news she’s been waiting to hear for nearly two decades.
“Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16,” Haslam said in a statement. “Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life.”
In a statement released by her attorneys, Brown thanked Governor Haslam and her many supporters, some of whom were celebrities who brought national attention to her case.
“Thank you, Governor Haslam, for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance,” Brown said. “I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me.”
Before Haslam’s decision, dozens of protesters attended a rally Saturday and begged the governor to do the right thing.
In 2006, Brown was tried as an adult, even though she was only 16 years old, for the death of Johnny Mitchell Allen. She was also convicted of aggravated robbery.
During her trial, Brown said she feared for her life and shot Allen, 43, while in bed with him because she believed he was reaching for a gun.
Brown’s supporters argued her sentence was too harsh and ignored her circumstances as a sex-trafficked teen. Before getting sold to Allen, Brown ran away from home and was living with her 24-year-old boyfriend, who was also a pimp known as “Kut Throat.” According to Brown, Kut Throat raped her and forced her into prostitution.
Last month, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Brown must serve 51 years in jail before she is eligible for release. This resulted in over half a million people have singing a petition for Brown to be freed.
While in prison, Brown has earned a GED and an associate degree.