Governor Bill Haslam has granted executive clemency to Cyntoia Brown by commuting her life sentence.
The governor’s office announced the decision Monday morning sharing that she will be released to parole supervision on August 7, 2019, according to Nashville 5.
By that time she will have served 15 years in prison.
“This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case,” Haslam said. “Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16. Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life. Transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”
Haslam has a week and a half left in his term.
As part of Brown’s parole, she will be subject to a release plan approved by the Tennessee Department of Correction and special supervision conditions, including employment, education, counseling, and community engagement requirements.
Cyntoia Brown was just 16 years old and a victim of child sex trafficking when she was charged in 2004 with killing a 43-year-old man who reportedly solicited sex from her.
The courts had ruled defendants like 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, according to Pix 11 News.
Just last month, in a unanimous decision, the court’s five justices ruled that despite Brown’s age at the time, her sentence was constitutional. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit in which Brown argued her sentence was unconstitutional, citing a 2012 opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court that said mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders violate the US Constitution.
In 2011, the PBS documentary, Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story detailed the atrocities that Brown suffered. A man named “Kut Throat”, said to be her pimp, allegedly forced her into prostitution and she was regularly raped, choked, beaten and drugged.
Brown’s case drew attention from celebrities like Rihanna, Gabrielle Union and Kim Kardashian West who began advocating for mercy using the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown.
Brown will be released from prison in August and will remain on supervised parole for 10 years.
Cyntoia Brown speaks out
At a press conference today, her lawyer read Brown’s statement.
Thank you Governor Haslem for your act of mercy of giving me a second chance. I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me. I want to thank everyone at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who saw something in me worth salvaging, especially Miss Connie Seabrook for allowing me to participate in the Lipscomb Life Program. It changed my life.
I am also grateful to the Tennessee Department of Corrections who will work with me for 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 a whole new world for me. I have one course left to finish my bachelor’s degree, which I will complete in May 2019.
I am thankful for all the support, prayers and encouragement I have received.
We truly serve a God of second chances and new beginnings. The Lord has held my hand this whole time and I would have never made it without him. Let today be a testament to his saving grace.
Thank you to my family for being a backbone these past 14 years.
I’m thankful to my lawyers and their staff, and all the others who for the last decade freely given of their time and expertise to help me get to this day. I love all of you and will be forever grateful.
With God’s help, I’m committed to living the rest of my life helping others, especially young people. My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been.