Rep. Brenda Gilmore was joined by other legislators and representatives from civil rights organizations in Tennessee and Georgia to ask Gov. Bill Haslam to grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown, calling her continued imprisonment “unfair and unjust.”
“In the interests of justice, Cyntoia Brown should be set free, and again we ask that we establish a time clock for Gov. Bill Haslam to do that before he leaves office,” said Gilmore.
Brown was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in the killing of Johnny Mitchell Allen in 2004. Brown, who was only 16 at the time and a sex trafficking victim, was in fear of her life and defended herself against a 43-year-old armed child predator who had kidnapped and sexually assaulted her.
“Cyntoia Brown was a 16 year old child, she was homeless; she was trapped in prostitution by men, by adults who came into her life; and she was also a victim of child sex trafficking,” said Gilmore. “In August 2004, she found herself in bed with an adult man, and believing her life was in danger, she shot and killed him.”
Gilmore and her supporters are asking for Haslam not to “kick the can down the road,” but to grant clemency for Cyntoia before he leaves office on January 19.
In a recent interview, Haslam said: “The Cyntoia case has gotten a lot of publicity understandably, but again we want to make certain we’re treating everybody fairly in this.”
Haslam has promised to announce his decision on this case as well as a handful of others “possibly this week.”
Gilmore and the other Brown supporters are saying that “we should never overlook violence, but the unique circumstances of Brown’s case should not be overlooked.”
Rep. John Clemmons, who joined Gilmore at the press conference, echoes those sentiments.
“In the interest of equity and fairness and justice we must call upon Gov. Haslam, who has exclusive authority at this time, to grant the clemency of Ms. Brown,” he said. “Ms. Brown herself was a victim. She was a 16 year old child put into a situation by someone she thought she could trust, her boyfriend. We do not condone violence but there must be circumstances under which we take into account when we sentence juveniles in this country and in this state.”
Brown, who has been a model inmate, has used her time to rehabilitate herself, help other inmates, and earn an Associates degree from Lipscomb University.
That, and the fact that at the time of the murder she was a victim herself, and that she was charged and tried as an adult when she was a child are three primary reasons Gilmore and her associates say that Brown should be freed.
Rep. Clemmons also plans to help continue bipartisan legislation that was introduced last year by Republican Sen. Doug Overbey and Democratic Rep. Raumesh Aakbari who is now in the senate, to change the law and provide circumstances which juvenile sentences can be reevaluated and factors be considered in sentencing guidelines.
Recently the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that Brown must serve 51 years in prison before she’s eligible for release.
According to Clemmons, the Court “interpreted the law correctly and that is why the law must change.”