Cyntoia Brown will be out of jail this August, after a clemency order issued Monday by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R).
The order from Haslam contradicts a December ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court that ordered Brown to remain in prison for 51 years, given that Tennessee state law demands that long of a minimum sentence before parole for a murder conviction. However, Haslam called the sentence “too harsh.”
“Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16,” Gov. Haslam said in a public 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.”
“Transformation should be accompanied by hope,” Haslam continued. “So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”
The clemency order makes Brown eligible for release in August, and will require her to remain on parole for ten years. She will also be ordered to undergo regular counseling sessions and perform at least 50 hours of community service, according to the Tennessean.
In a statement through her legal team, Brown thanked Haslam “for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance.”
“I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me,” she stated.
Brown — a former child sex slave — was convicted of first-degree murder in 2004 for killing her pimp. Her case drew national attention from celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna. Haslam added in his statement that Brown was a model inmate and was “a proper [case] for the exercise of executive clemency.”
“Over her more than fourteen years of incarceration, Ms. Brown has demonstrated extraordinary growth and rehabilitation,” he stated.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.