In 2006, Cyntoia Brown was 16 years old when she shot and killed Johnny Mitchell Allen, 43, in self-defense. She thought he was reaching for a gun after he tried to solicit her for sex. Brown was convicted of first-degree murder after being tried as an adult. As a result of media attention from Rihanna and Kim Kardashian, her story went viral, which resulted in a three-hour clemency hearing on May 23 in Tennessee. The six-member panel was split.
The final decision is in the hands of Gov. Bill Haslam, a 59-year-old, Republican white man who has never granted clemency. While his decision is pending, on Thursday (June 14), federal appeals judges said they will consider “asking the Tennessee Supreme Court to clarify whether a woman serving a life sentence for killing a man when she was 16 can ever gain parole,” according to the Associated Press.
On Thursday, attorney Mark Pickrell said Tennessee’s laws “are completely ambiguous” on parole eligibility and that Brown’s sentence is unconstitutionally excessive.” The AP reports, “John Bledsoe of the Tennessee attorney general’s office disagreed, saying she has the possibility for parole after serving 51 years.” This would mean she wouldn’t be eligible for parole until she was 68 years old.
The AP Press also reports, “Judge Amul Thapar said the appeals court could certify the question of her eligibility for Tennessee’s high court to answer before ruling. The judges didn’t say how soon they will act. The 6th Circuit hears appeals cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.”
This is a good sign for Brown, and considering Alice Marie Johnson, who Kim Kardashian also tweeted about, it may be that Brown will receive some type of justice. Although Johnson was a non-violent offender, Brown was acting in self-defense. In addition, if a cop killed unarmed 12-year-old Tamir Rice and didn’t spend a lick of time in jail, hopefully the courts will have mercy on a teenage girl.