Cyntoia Brown was 16 when she killed a man who had picked her up for sex. She was tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder. Her lawyers say she was a sex-trafficking victim afraid for her life. Celebrities including Kim Kardashian and singer Rihanna have rallied support for her.
On Monday, Gov. Bill Haslam told a group of protesters demanding clemency for Brown, who is serving a 51-year sentence in prison, that he’s reviewing her case.
The protesters used a bullhorn to lead chants for clemency at a Nashville library where Haslam was speaking on higher education at a forum sponsored by The Tennessean newspaper.
(Source: Associated Press)
State Sen. Katrina Robinson: Time to grant clemency
State Sen. Katrina Robinson has announced her support in the effort to grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown, the Tennessee minor sentenced to 51 years in prison.
Robinson has sent a letter to Gov. Haslam urging him to grant clemency to the now 30-year-old Brown. She is also preparing legislation that would exempt juveniles from key parts of the 1989 Sentence Reform Act.
Here is how Robinson framed the matter:
“When I first heard of Cyntoia Brown’s case, I was appalled. Adverse childhood events led Ms. Brown into a life of drugs, forced prostitution, and countless other illegal activities. It seems wrong to sentence a minor to what is essentially life in prison, for decisions they made under duress. While there is nothing our state can do to restore the near decade and a half she has spent in prison, granting her clemency would be a start. …
“There has been a lot of support for the release of Cyntoia Brown, ranging from music icons to elected officials around the nation. Children should not be subject to life in prison. Due to underdeveloped prefrontal cortexes and hyperactive amygdalas, adolescents are more likely to use emotion over reason. The rational decision making part of the brain doesn’t finish maturing until around the age of 25, yet we sentence children to life sentences when they can’t even effectively process their own thoughts and observations. …
“In addition to my letter to Governor Haslam, my legislative team has begun working on a bill that would exempt minors from the controversial bill that required Ms. Brown to serve for 51 years without parole. There is room for improvement in our penal code, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make the changes Tennesseans want. …
‘I stand in solidarity with Cyntoia Brown’
Dear Governor Haslam,
My name is Joy Doss. I am a registered voter in Tennessee who has voted for you for both terms. I am writing to express my support for the call for clemency for Cyntoia Brown.
The miscarriage of justice in this case is distressing. Her sentencing was cruel and usual, callous and dismissive of the fact that she was, in fact, a victim.
As I’m sure you are aware, she was victimized for most of her childhood until she finally freed herself, saving her own life. The outcome as it stands says that the courts have more compassion for the victimizer (a youth pastor suspiciously dismissed from his church, a man known to be a habitue of centers of prostitution) than the underaged victim.
There were over 100 cases of sex trafficking in Tennessee in 2017, with the average age of a child sold for sex being 13. There are also still laws on the books, in 2018, stating that adult men are allowed to marry girls as young as 13. What does this say about our state?
The Supreme Court has passed a law mandating that no minor shall be charged as an adult. We ask that this be retroactively applied to in this case and, again, that clemency be granted.
Our system should favor justice for all not just the wealthy and connected few.
I stand in solidarity with Cyntoia Brown. She has been a model prisoner. She has gotten a degree. She has gotten the therapy and support she needed to overcome unimaginable childhood traumas. Her life has as much redemptive value as the next person’s, particularly by comparison sexual predators across the country who have been regarded with unwarranted lenience.
Help Cyntoia Brown reclaim her time and reclaim her life. You have the power to stand up for women and underaged victims of sex trafficking.