Cyntoia Brown, who was sentenced to life in prison for killing the man who had bought her for sex, is getting a clemency hearing. She was 16 at the time.
Brown’s hearing will take place on May 23, Rita Jorgensen, a legislative liaison with the Tennessee state parole board, told CNN.
The details of her crime and trial circulated on social media last year, catching the attention of A-list celebrities and spawning the viral hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown.
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 just 16 years old. Despite her youth, she was tried as an adult and given a life sentence.
Brown, then 16, said she was solicited for sex by 43-year-old Johnny Mitchell Allan, who picked her up near a fast food parking lot and drove her back to his house.
There, she testified during her trial, she saw a gun cabinet in Allan’s room. She said she resisted his advances until he appeared to reach under the bed. Brown said she thought he was “gonna get a gun or is gonna do something to me.” She then said she took a gun out of her purse and shot Allan.
Despite her youth, she was tried as an adult and given a life sentence.
During her trial, the prosecution argued the motive for the killing was not self-defense, as Brown claimed, but rather robbery, since Brown took Allan’s wallet after she shot him. She was convicted of first degree murder, first degree felony murder and aggravated robbery. The convictions carried concurrent life sentences and eight additional years.
The next few years
Brown’s life sentence caught criticism in Tennessee, and in 2012, a US Supreme Court ruling offered her advocates new hope. The Supreme Court decision banned mandatory 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.
Even before the renewed interest in her case, her trial inspired a documentary and was a factor in a major change in how the state of Tennessee deals with child prostitution cases.
CNN’s Tina Burnside contributed to this report.