Cyntoia Denise Brown is currently serving life in prison. At the age of sixteen, she was convicted of first-degree felony murder, and especially aggravated robbery. Her victim was a 43-year-old man who paid for sex. Although the Supreme Court ruled life sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional, Cyntoia remains in prison. Despite her age, her conviction came from an adult court.
Per The Sentencing Project, Following the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Miller v. Alabama states that the federal government is required to consider the unique circumstances of each juvenile defendant in determining an individualized sentence. Montgomery v. Louisiana, a 2016 decision, ensures that the decision applies retroactively. For juveniles, a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional.
As a result of a social media campaign, this case is now gaining worldwide attention. Rihanna, Kim Kardashian West and T.I. are ALL outraged. A petition created on MoveOn.org began to circulate with the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown. The petition calls for President Trump to grant clemency. Unfortunately, because this is a state case, President Trump is not authorized to grant clemency. Instead, petitioners should direct the campaign to the Governor of Nashville, Bill Haslam or the Attorney General of the state of Tennessee.
Cyntoia Brown’s Case
Per Court Documents, “On the evening of August 7, 2004, police officers from the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department responded to a 911 call and found the body of the victim, Johnny Allen, in a bedroom of his house. The nude victim was laying face-down on the bed in a large pool of blood, and his “hands were beneath his face, his finger ‘kind of partially interlocked,'” as if he had been sleeping.
Cyntoia waived her Miranda Rights, giving the police a statement. The court documents reveal on the night of August 6, 2004, she was walking near a Sonic Drive-In when the victim, whom she did not know, picked her up in his truck. Per our 3-part series on GCE entitled: Under Arrest? Know Your Rights, Use Your Rights: Miranda Warnings, that decision was likely not a good idea in my opinion.
Although she did not know him, Cyntoia agreed to go to his house. According to court documents, the victim showed her some guns and they got into bed together. The victim whispered to and touched her and reached underneath the bed.
Unfortunately, she thought he was reaching for a gun, so she pulled a .40 caliber handgun out of her purse and shot him. In addition, she took money out of the victim’s wallet and two of his guns. She drove his truck to the Walmart parking lot and had someone drive her to the hotel.
Cyntoia Brown’s Defense
Per the appeal documents, if Cyntoia had testified at trial, she would have discussed her mental state. Cyntoia ran away from her adoptive parents and was living with various people. She was using drugs and alcohol.
According to the documents, in July 2004, she met “Cut Throat” who was twenty-four years old. She began to use cocaine and stayed in a hotel with him. “He also sexually assaulted her and made her prostitute herself.” She had to give the money she earned to Cut. She said that he was violent to her. One time he almost killed her by choking her.”
Admittedly, Cyntoia stated that the victim offered to pay her $100 and they ultimately agreed that he would pay her $150 in exchange for sex. After she shot him she did not realize the victim was dead. As she was fleeing his home, she realized that she did not get any money from him. So she went back. She was afraid of what Cut would do to her. So she returned taking two guns with her.
We are living in a time when sex traffickers and sexual predators need to be taken down. Also, demands to change the justice system are failing. Now, we learn about a young lady who is clearly a victim of sexual abuse and violence. Her history of being trafficked into sex slavery is unquestionable. She is also a victim in this case. The courts should re-open Cyntoia’s case and the final result should be a new sentence.
For more information on Cyntoia’s case, watch the documentary titled, Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s history and future. Cyntoia is eligible for parole after serving 51 years years. She will be 67 years old.