Cyntoia Brown was released from a Tennessee prison on Wednesday after serving 15 years of a life sentence for killing a man who had picked her up when she was a teenage trafficking victim.
The 31-year-old was granted clemency earlier this year after her case was taken up by celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Rihanna, and prominent lawyers to her defense.In 2006, Brown, was convicted of aggravated robbery and first-degree murder for killing a real estate agent Johnny Allen, whom she went home with after he picked her up for sex in Nashville.
Brown, then 16, said Allen had paid her $150 to have sex with him, and that she feared for her life during their encounter, leading her to shoot him.
She told police that she pulled a pistol out of her purse and fatally shot the man because she thought he was reaching for a gun.She then fled with Allen’s guns and money and drove away in his pickup truck.
Prosecutors claimed that Brown shot Allen as part of a plan to rob him, but Brown told police she was acting to protect herself. She was convicted and sentenced to life in prison over the killing.
Ms. Brown’s story made national headlines, raised awareness of the plight of trafficked young people and inspired a push for criminal justice reform in Tennessee.In January, the state’s governor at the time, Bill Haslam, bowed to pressure from lawmakers, activists and celebrities and granted her clemency placed into adoption as a child, Ms. Brown, now 31, ran away from her adoptive family at 16 and lived in a motel with a pimp who raped her and forced her into prostitution, according to court documents.
Ms. Brown was one of nearly 200 people sentenced as minors to the state’s 60-year mandatory minimum life sentence, the toughest in the US, according to the Sentencing Project, an advocacy group.
She was one of nearly 7,000 women serving a life sentence, many of them after also experiencing sexual or physical trauma, the group said.Ms. Brown will be under supervised parole until Aug. 7, 2029.
The Department of Corrections said in a statement on Monday that she had prepared for her release by meeting with counselors to design a “re-entry” plan, which includes placement in a transition center and continuing her studies.