Cyntoia Brown was released from a Tennessee prison Wednesday after serving 15 years of a life sentence for killing a man who solicited her for sex while she was a 16-year-old sex trafficking victim, the state’s Department of Corrections said in a statement.
Brown was freed after former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted her clemency among a public pressure campaign to have her released.
Brown was adopted as a child and ran away from home at 16. She lived with a pimp who raped her and forced her into prostitution, according to court documents.
Brown testified during her trial that Johnny Allen, a 43-year-old real estate broker, picked her up at a Tennessee restaurant and paid her $150 to have sex. She testified that at one point she believed he was reaching for a gun to kill her. She shot Allen in his sleep with a handgun she had in her purse and fled with the money and two guns.
She was tried as an adult for first-degree murder and robbery and sentenced to life in prison.
Brown was granted clemency by former governor:
Haslam granted her clemency as one of his final acts in office, noting that laws related to teens being charged as adults had changed since Brown was convicted.
Haslam said Brown committed a “horrific crime at the age of 16” but “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.”
While in prison, Brown was described as a “model prisoner,” the New York Times reported, and earned a GED and a college associate’s degree with a 4.0 GPA through Lipscomb University while in prison. She had started working toward her bachelor’s degree when she was freed.
Haslam told NBC News Wednesday that Brown “really had done what we hope happens when people are incarcerated.”
“In the end,” he said, “society was better off with Cyntoia out of prison.”
Hundreds of others still in prison:
“Brown was one of nearly 200 people sentenced as minors to the state’s 60-year mandatory minimum life sentence, the toughest in the nation,” The Times reported. “She was one of nearly 7,000 women serving a life sentence, many of them after also experiencing sexual or physical trauma.”
Brown will be on supervised parole until 2029.
“When her story is told in much greater detail,” her attorney said, “the words which describe her success include redemption, education, rehabilitation, salvation, mercy and freedom.”