Board hears Cyntoia Brown’s request for clemency; Gov. Haslam to make decision


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Cyntoia Brown went before the Tennessee Board of Parole on Wednesday for a clemency hearing. Brown was sentenced to life in prison over a decade ago after she was convicted of first-degree murder. 

Late last year, Brown’s case received national attention, and celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Rihanna launched a social media campaign to free the now 30-year-old woman.   

In 2004, Brown shot and killed a 43-year-old real estate agent named Johnny Allen. Allen had picked up Brown at the Sonic on Murfreesboro Pike and brought her home.  

They got into bed together and at some point, Brown killed Allen.  

Brown claimed self-defense but prosecutors maintained that Brown killed Allen in order to rob him. 

However, the facts of the case weren’t to be argued Wednesday. The hearing centered around the question is she rehabilitated, and should she be let out of prison early?   

Brown’s supporters told the board about her intelligence, her willingness to help others and her faith.   

MORE: Cyntoia Brown: Push to free Nashville woman from life in prison grows 

Brown, dressed in a Department of Correction issued outfit with her hair pulled back, listened to her supporters and opposition intently. At times, the young woman cried.  

Eighteen people testified on Brown’s behalf including her high school principal, a Lipscomb University professor, Tennessee Voices for Victims and her first defense attorney, Kathy Sinback. 

Brown herself gave emotional testimony to the Board. 

“I can’t say that I deserve or I’m entitled to anything because I’m not,” she said. “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.” 

MORE: Lawyers file appeal asking Cyntoia Brown’s sentence be overturned 

Brown’s supporters say Brown was forced to prostitute herself as a 16-year-old. She was a victim of sex trafficking. While they acknowledge that she committed an unspeakable act, they said she was a victim herself. 

However, the lead investigator who was on the case 14 years ago testified at Brown’s clemency hearing. He said the evidence does not show self-defense and alluded that the time fit the crime. 

“Let’s keep this in the perspective,” said Detective Charles Robinson with Metro police. “Why did Cyntoia commit this murder? She didn’t commit it because Mr. Allen was some threat to her. She committed the murder to rob him. The first chance she got, and that’s when he was in bed with her and when he was asleep. She reached over to her handbag that was on the nightstand on her side of the bed, and committed the murder so she could rob him.” 

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