Yesterday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted executive clemency to 11 people and none of them was Cyntoia Brown. In a news release, he said, “I am pleased to grant these acts of clemency. These individuals have made positive contributions to their communities and deserve pardons, or are individuals who will receive another chance to become contributing members of society by virtue of their commutations.”
Cyntoia Brown was 16 years old in 2004 when she shot and killed Johnny Mitchell Allen, 43, in self-defense. She thought he was reaching for a gun after he solicited her for sex. Prosecutors argued she wanted to rob Allen, not defend herself. After being tried as an adult, Brown was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006. Due to outrage on social media, and attention from Rihanna and Kim Kardashian, her story went viral. The case eventually made it to the Tennessee Supreme Court due to the work not from celebrities but prison reform advocates.
On Dec. 8, CNN.com reported, “On Thursday the court said defendants like Cyntoia Brown, who are convicted of first-degree murder committed after July 1, 1995, and sentenced to life imprisonment, can’t become eligible for release from prison before serving more than five decades. The court’s five justices were unanimous in their decision against Brown.”
The Tennessee Supreme Court explained their ruling in a statement that read in part “under state law, a life sentence is a determinate sentence of 60 years. However, the sixty-year sentence can be reduced by up to 15 percent, or 9 years, by earning various sentence credits.”
Brown’s case is pending judgment in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, but Haslam could have been the one to give her a second chance.