A Black woman serving life in prison in Tennessee for fatally defending herself as a teenager has had her sentence commuted, according to a new report. Cyntoia Brown, who was 16 years old in 2004 when she shot and killed Johnny Mitchell Allen, 43, in self-defense, was on Monday granted clemency by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, the Associated Press reported.
The 30-year-old was reportedly expected to be released from prison in August of this year.
“Haslam said Monday that he would show mercy to the now 30-year-old,” the AP wrote. “She will remain on parole for 10 years.”
The AP continued: “Brown said in a statement that she will do everything to justify Haslam’s faith in her and thanked her family for their support.”
It should be noted that Haslam commuted Brown’s sentence and didn’t pardon her, which means she will still have a criminal record.
The Tennessean published Brown’s full statement about being granted clemency:
“Thank you, Governor Haslam, for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance. I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me.
I want to thank those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who saw something in me worth salvaging, especially Ms. Connie Seabrooks for allowing me to participate in the Lipscomb LIFE Program. It changed my life. I am also grateful to those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who will work with me over the next several months to help me in the transition from prison to the free world.
Thank you to Dr. Richard Goode and Dr. Kate Watkins and all of you at Lipscomb University for opening up a whole new world for me. I have one course left to finish my Bachelor’s degree, which I will complete in May 2019.”
Brown was arrested in 2004 after she thought Allen was reaching for a gun when he tried to solicit her for sex. Prosecutors argued she wanted to rob him and was not defending herself. After being tried as an adult, Brown was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006. Due in part to outrage on social media and attention from celebrities including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian, Brown’s story went viral. Her case went all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which ruled last month that she couldn’t become eligible for parole until she served at least 50 years in prison.
She had already served more than a decade behind bars as of Monday’s ruling.
The jubilant reactions from Monday’s decision reverberated across social media and underscored how big of a legal win this was for social justice advocates who have been fighting for Brown’s freedom for years.