Cyntoia Brown’s case has recently been going viral on social media even though she has already been in jail for over thirteen years. Brown is serving a life sentence for the murder of a Nashville man in 2004. According to Brown, after a childhood marked by abuse and drugs, she was raped and forced into prostitution by a pimp, and ended up killing one of her clients out of self-defense when she was only 16-years-old. Despite her youth, she was tried as an adult and given a life sentence. The details of her crime and trial — including the fact that the man who had paid for sex with her was 43-years-old (Johnny Allen), have started circulating again, catching the attention of A-list celebrities and spawning the viral hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown.
Brown’s story came back into the spotlight through a text post describing Brown’s history and trial when it was first shared by singer Rihanna on Instagram.
“Imagine at the age of 16 being sex-trafficked by a pimp named ‘cut-throat.’ After days of being repeatedly drugged and raped by different men you were purchased by a 43-year-old child predator who took you to his home to use you for sex. You end up finding enough courage to fight back and shoot and kill him,” the post reads.
“You’re arrested as a result tried and convicted as an adult and sentenced to life in prison,” it continues. “This is the story of Cyntoia Brown. She will be eligible for parole when she is 69 years old.”
“Something his horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life,” Rihanna wrote in her Instagram caption.
The same post was later shared by Kim Kardashian West, T.I, LeBron James and Snoop Dogg, journalists, and activists who questioned why an underage girl involved in prostitution was given such a harsh sentence and are calling for her release. Many celebs are using their platforms to shine new light on the case, and are calling on lawmakers to intervene. Kardashian also enlisted the support of her personal attorneys.
KimKardashian captions: “The system has failed. It’s heart breaking to see a young girl sex trafficked then when she has the courage to fight back is jailed for life! We have to do better & do what’s right. I’ve called my attorneys yesterday to see what can be done to fix this. #FreeCyntoiaBrown”
The story behind the posts
Her case inspired a 2011 PBS documentary called “Me Facing Life: The Cyntoia Brown Story.” It’s a story about her case and court documents detailing Brown’s own testimony and that of a juvenile psychiatrist. Brown suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, grew up in an abusive home and had run away from her adoptive parents’ house prior to becoming involved in prostitution in Nashville.
During her trial, the prosecution argued that the motive for the killing was not self-defense, as Brown claimed, but rather robbery, since Brown took Allen’s wallet after she shot him. She was tried as an adult and convicted of first degree murder, first degree felony murder and aggravated robbery. The convictions carried concurrent life sentences and eight additional years.
Brown’s life sentence caught criticism in Tennessee, and in 2012, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling offered her advocates new hope. The Supreme Court decision banned life without parole for juveniles, stating it was unconstitutional. However, Brown’s conviction does carry the possibility of parole — when Brown is 69-years-old. Still, her advocates are hoping the change, and continued interest in her story, will inspire a change in Tennessee law.
Attempts at appealing Brown’s case have so far been unsuccessful, but a habeas corpus petition is still pending in federal court. Her attorneys who are handling her case “pro-bono” have been arguing for Brown to get a new trial and that if she were tried under current Tennessee law, she would most likely today be charged with second-degree murder at the most. If Cyntoria was faced with a lesser charge she could be considered for parole. Having this story circulate in the media is really helping to ignite some sparks of concerns for the case. There are now several supporters rallying of Brown’s willing to assist her attorneys to ensure she is treated fairly. Now 29-years-old, Brown, received her G.E.D. and an associate degree from Lipscomb University, which holds courses on site for women at the prison.
We stand in support of Cyntoria along with celebs and many others around the country! This will be a long process for Ms. Brown and her attorneys; please remember to cover them with prayer. We will continue to keep you all posted on this story.
– Destiny DeJournett