I love when social media steps up and applies pressure. The Cyntoia Brown story is definitely and example of this.
Cyntoia Brown, a woman who received a life sentence after killing a man who picked her up her for sex while she was being sex-trafficked at 16 year old, has been granted clemency after a star-studded effort to gain her release from prison.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted a full commutation to Brown on Monday, making her eligible for release on August 7, at which point she will face a 10-year period of parole.
The act instantly cut out the 39 years, the time left before she could petition parole, between Brown and her potential freedom. But the moment of catharsis was a long time coming.
This is the story of how Brown found herself behind bars and eventually gained her freedom.
In court, Brown's biological mother along with a psychologist testified that Brown was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a condition caused by alcohol exposure in the womb. The condition can cause brain damage among other complications, though Brown was said to have a high IQ.
She was born into a household afflicted with mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse.
"Bipolar, personality disorder, suicidal, manic depressive," said Brown's biological Georgina Mitchell in court footage from a 2011 documentary, listing conditions she's been diagnosed with. Mitchell said in court that she drank up to a fifth of whiskey a day while pregnant with Brown. She also would admit to using crack cocaine.
Eventually, Cyntoia was given up for adoption.
Brown eventually ran away from her adopted home in 2004, when she was 16. She was forced into prostitution by an abusive 24-year-old named Garion McGlothen who went by the alias "Cut Throat." The two consumed drugs and alcohol together.
According to court documents, after running away from home following alleged abuse from her stepfather, Brown stayed with various friends using drugs and alcohol, before meeting 24-year-old Garion McGlothen, who went by the alias, "Cut Throat."
Brows says that he abused and sexually assaulted her, eventually forcing her into prostitution.
On August 7, 2004, Brown killed a man who hired her for sex. She said she shot him because she thought he was reaching for a gun.
Brown shot and killed 43-year-old real-estate agent Johnny Allen after he picked her up on the way to Sonic. Brown says the pair agreed that he would pay her $150 for sex.
Brown claims that throughout their encounter at Allen's home, he repeatedly brought up guns that he allegedly owned, stating that he was formerly in the military and was a "sharpshooter." She called the victim "weird" in court documents, and says she would have run were it not for a gun cabinet in the room.
At one point, she claims Allen grabbed her "really hard" before rolling over to "maybe to reach for something" like a gun.
She grabbed her own gun, which McGlothen had been given to her, and shot Allen, she said.
After shooting Allen, Brown took some of his guns and his wallet,allegedly because she feared returning to McGlothen empty handed. She drove Allen's car to a Walmart parking lot.
In 2006, Brown was convicted of murder after being tried as an adult. She was sentenced to life in prison, with the chance of parole after 51 years served
Brown was arrested the next day, after calling 911 and admitting she had killed Allen.
She was tried as an adult and the prosecution argued that since she had stolen items following the killing, it could not have been an act of self-defense.
In August 2006, Brown was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder, and aggravated robbery. In October 2006, she was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole only after 51 years were served, when she would be 69 years old.
She was housed in the maximum-security Tennessee Prison for Women.After seeing a documentary on Brown, a Nashville attorney took interest in Brown's case, and eventually petitioned for a new trail.
Nashville attorney Charles Bone was one of many people who learned about Cyntoia's case from a 2011 documentary called "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story."
In 2012, Bone petitioned for a new trial for Brown, arguing for the introduction of new evidence around fetal alcohol syndrome, and to give Brown an opportunity to testify in her own defense.A state appeals court ruled in 2014 that Brown's case should not be reheard. The rejection was one of many that Brown would face on her road to freedom.In 2015, a group including Cyntoia's original lawyer, attempted to get a law passed that would mandate court reviews of life sentences given to juveniles.
In 2015, Kathy Sinback, Brown's former attorney, began work with a group of other Tennessee activists, lawyers, and lawmakers to try to pass a similar law in Tennessee.
The bill failed to get approval 2016.
By 2016, 24 states would have passed laws mandating such reviews, partly inspired by Brown's story.
A wave of new measures that would mandate the review of life sentences given to juIy 2017, Brown's story went viral on social media. Celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian reposted a version of Brown's story on their feeds, read by millions of people.Brown graduated from Lipscomb University's LIFE program in 2015 with an associate's degree. She has been called a model inmate.