On Thursday, the Tennessee Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Cyntoia Brown–a sex-trafficking victim who at 16 was sentenced to life in prison for killing a 43-year-old Nashville man who bought her for sex–will have to serve at least 51 years in prison before being eligible for release. The rule was a response to a lawsuit filed by Brown arguing that her sentence was unconstitutional based on a 2012 Supreme Court opinion that deemed life sentences without parole for juveniles as cruel and unusual punishment.
In a statement, the Tennessee Supreme Court said that under Tennessee law, a life sentence is considered 60 years. However, the 60-year sentence can be reduced by up to nine years by earning credits such as good behavior or attending educational training programs.
Brown’s motion was previously denied by the district court. Further, her case is pending judgement in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which asked for the Supreme Court’s opinion.
Cyntoia Brown was sex-trafficked at the age of 16 to Johnny Mitchell Allan, a 43-year-old Nashville Realtor who abused her. In 2004, Brown was tried as an adult after she shot and killed Allan. At trial, Brown said that she killed Allen because she feared he was going to kill her. Further, Brown said that Allen always pointed a gun at her during her captivity, and hit, choked and dragged her. A jury sentenced her to life in prison.
In May, Brown was granted a clemency hearing. However, the Tennessee Board of Parole was split on the recommendation to free her. Two members voted to deny clemency, two voted for clemency, and two members voted to make Brown eligible for parole after serving 25 years.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that of the 11,800 runaways reported in 2015, 1 in 5 were victims of sex trafficking. According to the Polaris Project, as of 2015, only 34 states had laws that provide immunity to children who engage in “prostitution.”
Newswire Sources: The Root 12/7/18; Feminist Newswire 9/26/16