Retiring Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday gave executive clemency to convicted murderer Cyntoia Brown by commuting her life sentence.
Brown will be released on Aug. 7 to parole supervision for a period of 10 years, Haslam said in a statement. She served 15 years in prison.
She was convicted as a teenager of killing a man while she said she was a sex trafficking victim at age 16, NBC News said.
In 2006, Brown was convicted by a Davidson County jury of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery for the 2004 murder of 43-year-old Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen, the governor’s office said. The incident occurred when Allen took Brown to his home.
She received a life sentence with the possibility of parole after serving a minimum of 51 years in prison, which means she would not have been eligible for parole consideration until 2055, at the earliest, without the governor’s action.
Brown said that she feared for her life and pulled a gun from her purse and shot Allen while in bed with him because she believed he was going for a gun, NBC News said. Brown, a runaway, lived with her 24-year-old boyfriend, a pimp known as “Kut Throat.” Brown said her pimp raped her and forced her into prostitution.
Prosecutors said Brown shot Allen in his sleep – he was found face down with his hands under his head – and said robbery was the motive, Fox News said. Brown stole Allen’s weapons and his money. Allen was a sharpshooter in the U.S. Army.
Brown’s case has drawn widespread attention in recent years. A documentary, Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story, was released in 2011.
Haslam discussed his thoughts behind the clemency decision with The Tennessee Journal. The full interview is available here. The governor said he wanted to treat the case as any other despite the state receiving 100,000 phone calls because of celebrity attention, so many that people could not get through to sign up for TennCare:
Haslam: We thought about it a lot, and the governor does have incredible powers. You could say, I want her to [be] out in 15 minutes or anything. I think you start out with, what’s the right thing to do, and what’s the best thing in her situation. For us, it was 15 years. A lot people said, if that had happened today, she would have gotten 2nd degree, which would have been 15 to 25 years. And so that was one of the motivations of saying 15 years with 10 years’ probation.
Kim Kardashian West, one of the celebrities who advocated for Brown, tweeted in response to the clemency, “Thank you Governor Haslam.”
👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Thank you Governor Haslam 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 https://t.co/rAiru84fgn
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 7, 2019
The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation to the governor in favor of granting Brown a commutation, the governor’s office said.
“While we have spent a considerable amount of time studying and implementing sentencing and criminal justice reform in our state, there is more work to be done,” Haslam said in the statement. “I am hopeful serious consideration of additional reforms will continue, especially with respect to the sentencing of juveniles.”
Executive clemency is an act of mercy or leniency by the governor after a criminal conviction. Haslam’s office said he has previously granted five commutations, 15 pardons and one exoneration.
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