Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted full clemency to Cyntoia Brown Monday for a life sentence after she killed a man who solicited her for sex when she was 16.
“This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case,” Haslam said in a statement on his website. “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. Transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”
Brown said she was forced into prostitution by a pimp named “Kut Throat” after a difficult childhood.
She was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery in 2006, for the killing two years earlier of 43-year-old Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen. The killing occurred after a then-16-year-old Brown was picked up by Allen and taken to his home to have sex.
During her trial, she stated that she feared for her life when she shot and killed Allen after a confrontation.
Brown received a life sentence with the possibility of parole after serving a minimum of 51 years in prison, and would not have been eligible for parole until 2055.
Over the years, her case received international media attention. Her story was chronicled in the 2011 PBS documentary, Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story, by filmmaker Daniel H. Birman.
Celebrities including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West have also used social media to bring attention to her case.
Brown, now 30, will be released on Aug. 7, after serving 15 years in prison. She will remain on parole for 10 years.