Cyntoia Brown Given Clemency by Tenn. Governor

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on January 07, 2019 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Cyntoia Brown's story has a bittersweet ending, but that's better than the alternative. Come August, she will be a free woman, notwithstanding ten years on parole following her release. When Brown was 16 years old, she was convicted in a Tennessee court room of murdering a man who bought her for sex, and was handed an adult sentence that wouldn't have allowed her to seek parole until she was 51.

After some celebrity intervention by Amy Schumer, Kim Kardashian West, and Ashley Judd, along with a documentary based on her case, Brown was granted clemency at the age of 30 by Tennessee's Governor Bill Haslam. A different woman now than the girl that was incarcerated, armed with maturity and education, she plans to help at-risk youth, and hopefully help them avoid the path she helped to forge.

She Shot the John, but Swore It Was In Self-Defense

In 2006, Brown was found guilty of killing a man that had hired her for sex, and brought her back to his house. While he lay sleeping, she shot him in the head, stole his money, guns, and truck. She admitted to all of this at her trial, explaining that she was afraid for her life if she didn't return to her pimp without money, and therefore claimed she robbed and killed the man in self-defense. But the judge didn't buy it. She was tried as an adult, convicted of murder, and given a very lengthy sentence.

Yesterday's Teen Prostitute Is Today's Victim of Sex Trafficking

Brown was a teen prostitute by all means. Neither side in her murder trial tried to paint her otherwise. But today, that "profession" has a different term. It's "sex trafficking." By today's Tennessee laws, Brown would have been considered a victim of sex trafficking instead of being labeled a criminal, like teen prostitute. In fact, a 2011 documentary entitled "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story," details Brown being forced into prostitution as a young teen, sex-trafficked, and raped repeatedly. That documentary eventually helped to change the way Tennessee deals with juvenile sex trafficking victims. It seems only fair that she is able to reap the benefits those after her will be afforded, if one can even call it that.

If you or someone you love has been the victim of sex trafficking, and is being charged with prostitution-related crimes, contact a local criminal defense attorney. Fortunately, laws evolve over time as we come to understand the lives behind the stories of both the victims and the accused. A criminal defense attorney can help you tell your story, and hopefully find a just outcome for your situation.

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