Cyntoia Brown is a Lipscomb grad, a sex-trafficking victim and a prisoner serving a life-sentence.
Brown was only 16 when the murder of Johnny Mitchell Allan took place.
After running away from her adoptive family, Brown said she was forced into prostitution while she was living with a “pimp.” One day after, Brown was walking down the street when she was approached by Allan, who then offered her a ride near a fast food restaurant and then ended up driving her to his house.
After bringing her to his home, Brown said Allan attempted to rape her. It was in this moment, Brown said, when she saw him reaching for something, which she thought was a gun. In self defense, she shot and killed Allan.
Although she was only 16 at the time of the murder in 2004, she wasn’t tried as a child but as an adult. Through this trial, she received a life sentence. With this sentence, it doesn’t allow Brown to be eligible for parole until she is 69 years old.
As she is presently serving this sentence, the guards at the Tennessee State Women’s Prison have described Brown as a “model inmate,” setting examples for the other prisoners. During her time in prison, Brown also achieved an associate of arts degree through Lipscomb University’s partnership with the Tennessee Prison for Women.
Most recently, this past May, Brown had her first clemency hearing.
“I am a changed person because I had no choice but to be,” Brown said in the hearing.
As her case is publicly known due to social media advocates such as Kim Kardashian West, the world tuned in. Celebrities such as Rihanna have started a social media campaign with the hashtag “Free Cyntoia Brown.”
During this hearing, the parole board was divided. There were six members on the panel; the decisions between the six were split into three different parts. Two of the six did not want the case altered and to keep the sentence the same; the other two voted to let Brown be released from Prison, and the final two wanted the sentence changed from a life sentence to only 25 years.
Since there was no majority agreement, the ultimate ruling has come down to Governor Bill Haslam.
“If I were to get out today, it would still be the same,” Brown told The Tennessean. “There would still be something I’ve done that I can’t undo.”