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Cyntoia Brown  

Sex Traffic Survivor; Sentenced To Life Imprisonment At 16 in Famous #FreeCyntoiaBrown Case

Cyntoia Brown, who served 15 years of a life sentence for killing a man when she was 16, has been released from a Nashville prison, Tennessee, in 2019. Earlier this year, then-Gov. Bill Haslam took renewed interest in the case and granted Brown clemency for what he called a "tragic and complex case;" a major victory for Brown and her supporters, who for years have maintained that the 2004 killing was an act of self-defense.

Over the years, the fight for Brown's release has brought prominent lawyers to her defense, a PBS documentary and backing from celebrities including Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna. Her case also inspired the introduction of state legislation aimed at protecting minors who are victims of sex trafficking.

In 2006, Brown was convicted of aggravated robbery and first-degree murder for killing 43-year-old real estate agent Johnny Allen. She told police that she pulled a pistol out of her purse and fatally shot Allen because she feared for her life during their encounter. Prosecutors claimed that Brown shot Allen as part of a plan to rob him, but Brown told police she was acting to protect herself. In the end, she was convicted and sentenced to life in prison over the killing.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders are not constitutional, but Tennessee prosecutors successfully argued that Brown would technically become eligible for parole after 51 years, in 2055.

Brown's case gained new scrutiny with the rise of the #MeToo movement, as her supporters drew attention to the case using the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown. Criminal justice reform advocates portrayed Brown's case as an example of the unreasonable incarceration of a teenager who was a victim of sex trafficking. While incarcerated, Brown earned her GED, finished a bachelor's degree and mentored at-risk youth.

Following her release, Brown's publisher announced that she will release a memoir in October, 2019, that will describe her traumatic childhood, how she transformed her life from behind bars and the events that led to her murder conviction and eventual release. Brown's story is detailed in the 2011 documentary "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story" and in her memoir, "Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System."

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