Nationwide — Cyntoia Brown, a woman from Tennessee who was 16-years old when she killed a 43-year-old man who solicited her for sex, must serve at least 51 years in prison before she would be eligible for release, the Tennessee Supreme Court has decided.
In 2004, Brown was raped and forced to prostitution by her boyfriend, a 24-year old pimp known as “Kut Throat.” That was when 43-year old John Mitchell Allen solicited her for sex and brought her to his home.
There, Brown feared for her life when she thought Allen was reaching for his gun to shoot her, she said during the trial. She then took a handgun from her purse and shot him first, killing him.
Brown, who was tried as an adult, was convicted of first-degree murder, felony murder, and aggravated robbery because prosecutors believed that she shot him to rob him and not to defend herself. She was sentenced to life in prison.
Brown has described her life sentence as a “cruel and unusual punishment” and filed a lawsuit claiming that her life sentence is unconstitutional because in 2012 the U.S. Supreme court already ruled against life-without-parole sentences for juveniles as it violates the U.S. Constitution.
As a response, on Thursday, five justices in the Tennessee Supreme Court’s decided unanimously against Brown, citing that defendants like Brown, who were sentenced to life imprisonment after July 1, 1995, can’t be eligible for release from prison without serving for at least 51 years.
Prior to that, a district court in Tennessee denied Brown’s motion noting that she wasn’t really sentenced to life-without-parole sentence — just a life sentence.
Brown has appealed the decision, which is pending judgment by the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Brown’s case was featured in a 2011 PBS documentary titled “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story.” Her case has also got the attention and support of numerous celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna, Snoop Dogg, and Lebron James who were raising awareness about Brown being the victim of sex trafficking.
Using the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown, people in social media voiced out their thoughts about Brown’s case. Most of them were pointing out how White men and women who commit crimes were often given lighter sentences than Black people.