Cyntoia Brown has been in prison for more than 13 years, but she’s back in the news spotlight again. And it’s because there’s a campaign in the works to free her, with the support of multiple celebrities.
It’s hard to say what should be done in the case of Brown. As a teenager, she shot and killed a man and stole his money and guns. But when you learn what happened to Brown leading up to the shooting, the situation becomes much less black and white. In this article, we’ll take a look at a woman who has been in prison since she was 16 and won’t be eligible for parole until she’s 69.
Who Is Cyntoia Brown?
Cyntoia Brown was born to a mother who drank every day while pregnant. After being taken from her mother, Brown was in and out of child services for years until she finally ran away from her adopted family.
At age 16, Brown quickly fell in with a pimp named “Kut Throat.” From there on out, Brown was regularly abused and raped by her pimp and clients.
In 2004, she was picked up by Johnny Allen, a 43-year-old Nashville real estate agent who brought her home and paid for sex. Allen reached for something near his bed and Brown shot Allen in the back of the head. She then stole his money and some guns.
Brown has maintained from the beginning that she was afraid and after weeks of abuse and drug use, she thought Allen was reaching for a gun. So she shot him in self-defense with a handgun pulled from her purse.
Prosecutors argued that it wasn’t self-defense at all, that Brown had wanted to rob Allen all along. Despite her tragic past, they said, this was murder and robbery, plain and simple.
Shades of Gray
The problem with the Cyntoia Brown case is that you can easily see all sides of the story. Murder is wrong, but Brown was a 16-year-old girl with little education who had been repeatedly abused before Allen’s death.
While these circumstances didn’t save her from imprisonment, Brown’s case has led to a change in Tennessee law. Now, no one under the age of 18 can be charged with prostitution. Advocates also want to amend the law to ensure that teenagers who get a life sentence receive a mandatory 15- or 20-year review of their sentence.
If she were tried today, Brown might be treated like a victim as opposed to a criminal. Given her troubled background, there is currently a movement being led by celebrities like Rihanna, LeBron James, Kim Kardashian, and Cara Delevingne to have Brown freed, or at the very least to have her case re-examined.
The system has failed. It’s heart breaking to see a young girl sex trafficked then when she has the courage to fight back is jailed for life! We have to do better & do what’s right. I’ve called my attorneys yesterday to see what can be done to fix this. #FreeCyntoiaBrown pic.twitter.com/73y26mLp7u
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) November 21, 2017