A Tennessee state parole board was divided during the clemency hearing of Cyntoia Brown, a sex trafficking victim serving a life sentence in prison for killing her john.
After a three-hour hearing on May 23, the six-member panel was split three ways on their recommendations to Gov. Bill Haslam.
Two voted to grant her clemency, which would allow for her release; two voted to deny her bid; and two voted to reduce her current life sentence with eligibility of parole after 51 years to a sentence with parole eligibility after 25 years.
Haslam, who has not granted any bids for clemency, will ultimately make the final decision.
At age 16, Brown said she killed 43-year-old Johnny Mitchell Allen in self-defense after he solicited her for sex. She shot him after she thought he was reaching for a gun.
In 2011, PBS highlighted Brown’s story with a documentary titled “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story.” It detailed her life as a teenager, the day of the fatal shooting of Allen, and her trial, in which she was tried as an adult.
Although she was convicted more than 10 years ago, many, including celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Rihanna, have recently cast it back into the spotlight with the viral hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown.
During the clemency trial, Brown’s first bid for freedom since 2004, the panel heard from her allies as well as Allen’s supporters. Brown, now 30, also spoke and apologized for the crime.
If granted clemency, she said she would use the opportunity to work with other troubled teens. While in prison, she has volunteered to counsel teens in the city’s juvenile justice system and has earned her associates degree.
“I can't say that I deserve or I'm entitled to anything because I'm not,” she said, according to WKRN. “I wasn't even entitled to this hearing. You showed me grace in giving me this hearing. I just pray that you will see through everything that's been shown today, that I won't disappoint you. I'm not going to let you down.”
No word yet on when Haslam will make his decision.
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