A woman who says she was forced into prostitution as a teen and who is serving a life sentence for killing a john must serve at least 51 years before she is eligible to be released from prison.
Cyntoia Brown has garnered the support of numerous celebrities advocating for her release, including Kim Kardashian, Rihanna and Lebron James. Brown's case was the subject of a 2011 PBS documentary "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story."
Brown says she was sex trafficked by a pimp in Nashville and, at the age of 16, was solicited for sex by a 43-year-old real estate agent named Johnny Mitchell Allen. Brown shot Allen with a handgun she had in her purse after she says he reached under his bed for what she thought was a gun. At that moment, Brown said she feared for her life.
After she shot him, she allegedly took his wallet, his truck and two firearms, according to court documents. Prosecutors argued that Brown's motive for the shooting was robbery, not self-defense, for the 2004 killing.
Despite her age, Brown was tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder. She will not be eligible for parole until she’s at least 67.
Now, the Tennessee's Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that she must serve at least five decades before any possible release. The court issued the opinion Thursday at the request of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is considering the case of Brown, now 30.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against life-without-parole sentences for juveniles, but Tennessee has argued successfully in lower courts that Brown does have a possibility for parole after 51 years.
Last year, celebrities shed more light on the case with the trending hashtag #FREECYNTOIABROWN.
Rihanna shared a post on Instagram about Brown in November, writing: "Did we somehow change the definition of #JUSTICE along the way?? Cause..... Something is horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life! To each of you responsible for this child's sentence I hope to God you don't have children, because this could be your daughter being punished for punishing already!"
That same day, Kim Kardashian tweeted, “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”
Brown completed an associate's degree from Lipscomb University while imprisoned.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxgen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.