Two days after granting clemency to Cyntoia Brown, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam spoke one-on-one with News 2 after his decision.
The governor said everyone he spoke to about Brown called her “the real deal – a story of rehabilitation and redemption.”
In one of his last interviews before leaving office later this month, Haslam told News 2 why he thinks his decision on granting Brown clemency was the right thing to do.
“Our job was to kind of separate all of the publicity from celebrities and activists, etc., and say, ‘thanks.’ We got a lot of phone calls around here, but still to say, that’s all fine, but our job is to look at it on the legal merits on her case and treat it just like every other one,” Haslam said.
Brown’s case gained national attention from celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and activists across the U.S. Gov. Haslam said the most difficult part of his decision was separating what he referred to as “noise” from the circumstances and facts surrounding the request.
“Nobody wants you making a legal decision based on the number of phone calls you get. You just don’t want to do that,” the governor said.
Haslam said Brown deserved the commutation for several reasons.
“Everybody that we have run into says she is the real deal. It truly is a story about rehabilitation, redemption–that is what you want out of your correction system by the way and I was pleased to see her credit Tennessee Department of Correction,” Haslam said.
He continued, “In the end, I honestly think we made the right call, but one of the things we’re trying to do is to be consistent. We’re looking at a lot of pardon requests – we still are – a lot of clemency commutation requests, and you want to make certain that if you do something it fits in with what you think and what you’ve done in other cases,” he said.
The governor said he has not met with Brown or anyone who has asked and been granted clemency. His team does meet with their attorneys.
Brown will be released to parole supervision on August 7, exactly 15 years to the day when she was arrested. While jailed, she has earned her associate degree through the Lipscomb LIFE program with a 4.0 GPA. She is also expected to earn her bachelor’s degree in May.
Brown was 16-years-old when she was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a Nashville man in 2004. She claimed she was trapped in prostitution and a victim of child sex trafficking when she shot and killed Jimmy Allen.
Gov. Haslam said he has other clemency requests to consider before leaving office Jan. 19.