Cyntoia Brown, a woman who was jailed at age 16 for killing a man who bought her for sex, was granted clemency on Monday by Tennessee governor Bill Haslam.
Brown was serving a life sentence. Haslam said in a statement that he would show mercy to the now-30-year-old Brown by releasing her on Aug. 7. She will remain on parole for 10 years, providing that she doesn’t violate any state or federal laws. She will also have to maintain employment and participate in regular counselling sessions.
“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.”
Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna, and other celebrities rallied for Brown as she fought her life sentence for the 2004 murder of 43-year-old Johnny Allen, who had picked her up for sex. Her lawyers say she was a sex-trafficking victim and feared for her life.
Nashville mayor David Briley lauded Haslam’s decision, saying it was a “great day for social justice and our city.”
After Kardashian West and others spoke up about Brown, the governor’s office was flooded with emails and phone calls requesting her clemency. On Monday, Kardashian West tweeted her thanks to Haslam.
During her time in prison, Brown finished her GED and took some college courses. As of this writing, she is one credit away from finishing a bachelor’s degree from Lipscomb University.
Brown said in a statement that she will do everything to justify Haslam’s faith in her and thanked her family for their support. Here is her full statement:
“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.
“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 am thankful to my lawyers and their staffs, and all the others who, for the last decade have 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 am committed to live 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. Thank you.”
— With files from The Associated PressFollow @CJancelewicz