In 2006, when Cyntoia Brown was just 16 years old, she was convicted of the first-degree murder of real estate agent Johnny Allen in Nashville, Tennessee two years before. Today (Monday, Jan. 7, 2018), she was granted full clemency. For more on what that actually means and to refresh you on what went down leading up to all this, here’s a quick recap.
According to Cyntoia, she and Allen crossed paths in August of 2004 when Allen picked her up at a Sonic restaurant and took her back to his house for prostitution purposes. Now 30 years old, Cyntoia maintains she was a victim of child sex trafficking, forced onto the streets by an abusive boyfriend. Still, the jury at her trial chose to convict her of first-degree murder, claiming robbery was her motive. And even though she was only 16, a juvenile, she was sentenced to 51 years in prison, which meant she wouldn’t even be eligible for parole until her mid-60s!
Cyntoia’s lawyers filed an application for clemency earlier last year and challenged the 51-year sentence, but just last month, that sentence was upheld. Tennessee’s governor, however, did say he was still considering her application for clemency at that time. And clearly, the years upon years of support for Cyntoia — including social media posts to #FreeCyntoiaBrown, letter writing campaigns, calls, and protests by celebrities, activists, and general citizens — had an impact on his final decision to commute Cyntoia’s sentence from 51 years in prison to 10 years probation. She’ll officially be released on August 7, 2019, following six months of participation in a transition program and a total of about 14 years inside.
In his statement about the decision, Gov. Haslam said, “Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16. 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.”
Cyntoia’s response: “I am thankful for all the support, prayers, and encouragement I have received. We truly serve a God of second chances and new beginnings. The Lord has held my hand this whole time and I would have never made it without Him. Let today be a testament to His Saving Grace.” You can read her full statement here.
The wheels of justice do indeed turn slowly, but thankfully, the people kept on pushin’ and never gave up hope.