Cyntoia Brown's Life Sentence For Murder Commuted, Wins August Release Date

“My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been,” she says of life post-prison.

January 08, 2019
Cyntoia Brown [CBS This Morning/screenshot]

Cyntoia Brown [CBS This Morning/screenshot]

Cyntoia Brown [CBS This Morning/screenshot]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

NASHVILLE, TN — The governor of Tennessee has granted full clemency to Cyntoia Brown, the woman accused of killing a man when she was allegedly a teenaged victim of sex trafficking. She will be released from prison on August 7 after serving 15 years of a life sentence.

“Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16," Governor Bill Haslam said in a statement. "Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life.”

In prison, Brown, now 30, has managed to earn her General Education Development certification and an associate degree with a 4.0 grade-point average. In May, three months before her release, she expects to graduate with her bachelor’s degree.

"Over her more than 14 years of incarceration, Ms. Brown has demonstrated extraordinary growth and rehabilitation," Haslam noted. "Transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”

Those conditions include Brown undergoing regular counseling sessions, finding a job, and serving at least 50 hours of community service — something she is happy to do since she will be able to work with at-risk kids.

“My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been,” Brown said in a statement after the governor’s decision.

In August 2004, Brown was a 16-year-old runaway living in a hotel with her abusive then-boyfriend, nicknamed “Cut Throat.” She claimed he forced her into prostitution, which is why she agreed to go home with 43-year-old real estate agent Johnny Allen for $150 after he picked her up at a Sonic in East Nashville.

According to Brown, she shot Allen in the back of the head, killing him, out of self-defense because she believed he was attempting to grab a gun under the bed and she feared for her life.

During the court case advocates for Brown, who was tried as an adult in 2006, cited in her defense her young age at the time of the crime and the possibility she suffered from the effects of fetal-alcohol syndrome.

But lawyers on the other side of the aisle insisted the teen, carrying a loaded gun in her purse the night of the homicide, targeted Allen. They pointed out Brown fled his home with his car, money, and guns.

"First and foremost, Cyntoia Brown did not commit this murder because she was a child sex slave as her advocates would like you to believe,” testified Nashville police detective Charles Robinson at trial. “Cyntoia Brown's motive for murdering Johnny Allen in his sleep was robbery.”

Robinson pointed out that Allen's "arms [were] folded underneath his head and his fingers were interlocked together," which conflicted with Brown’s account that he was going for a gun under the bed.

A jury ultimately sided with the prosecution and found Brown guilty of first-degree murder and robbery. In October 2006, a judge sentenced her to life in prison with the possibility of parole at age 69.

A spotlight was shone on Brown’s case for clemency after celebrities, including LeBron James, Kim Kardashian West, and Rhianna, took up her cause in 2017, railing against what they said was a broken legal system. The Tennessee Board of Parole recently agreed and voted in favor of commuting Brown’s sentence.

“I am thankful for all the support, prayers, and encouragement I have received,” Brown said in her post-clemency statement. “We truly serve a God of second chances and new beginnings.”

Brown will be on supervised parole for 10 years after her release this summer.

Next Up

True Crime News Roundup: Arrest Made In Fatal Shooting Of A Military Mother Visiting Her Son’s Grave

Plus: Woman accused of using kiss to pass drugs to inmate boyfriend who overdosed; authorities limit search for California teen who went missing after graduation party; Salman Rushdie attacker pleads not guilty; and ex-cop in Kansas suspected of 10-year sex-assault spree, police say.

Memphis Woman Says Police Failed To Investigate Her 2021 Rape By Eliza Fletcher’s Killer

DNA from a 2021 rape kit was not determined to match Cleotha Henderson until Sept. 5, 2022, three days after he is accused of kidnapping and murdering Fletcher.

DNA Ties Two Virginia College Students’ Homicides To ‘Back-To-School Killer’

One victim’s mother called Jesse Matthew Jr. "a serial rapist and murderer who had been hiding in plain sight."

Man Arrested After Tech CEO Found Murdered In Her Baltimore Apartment

Pava LaPere, a rising tech star in her twenties, was murdered in her Baltimore home. After a few days on the run, Jason Dean Billingsley, 32, was arrested and charged with her murder.

'Lady Of The Dunes' Cold Case Closed After Her Husband Was Named The Killer

Ruth Marie Terry, a murder victim who was known only as the “Lady of the Dunes” for nearly 50 years, was identified, and now her husband has been named as her killer.

An Arizona Man Is Freed From Death Row After 29 Years In Prison

After nearly 29 years on death row, 64-year-old Barry Jones was freed to spend his first Father’s Day with his children in decades.

5 Disturbing & Bizarre Facts About Dee Dee Blanchard

Inside the murder of this allegedly abusive mom that brought Munchausen by proxy syndrome into the spotlight.

An Escaped Inmate Had One Target As He Raced Across Prison Grounds

A Tennessee corrections officer was murdered in her home after an inmate trustee escaped the West Tennessee State Penitentiary.

Three Men Charged In Killing Of Hip-Hop Legend Jam Master Jay

The Run-DMC DJ was shot to death in a Queens recording studio in October 2002.

DNA Helps Solve The 1984 Cold Case Murder Of Donna Macho

New Jersey teen Donna Macho was brutally attacked and murdered in 1984, and after nearly three decades, her killer was positively identified.