Cyntoia Brown Is Released From Prison After 15 Years

Cyntoia Brown walks free this week.
Getty Images

Cyntoia Brown, 31, was sentenced to life in prison when she was just 16.

Cyntoia Brown was released from prison Wednesday, months after being granted clemency by Gov. Bill Haslam. 

Brown, 31, was sentenced to life in prison when she was just 16. She served 15 years behind bars for the 2004 murder of a Tennessee real estate agent, Johnny Allen, 43. Her release comes after Haslam commuted her sentence in January following rallying cries from lawmakers and celebrities alike.

Brown’s case highlighted the state's harsh sentencing for teens. 

"I look forward to using my experiences to help other women and girls suffering abuse and exploitation," Brown said in a statement after her release.

On Aug. 7, 2004, Brown, then 16, was reportedly sold for sex to Allen by her then boyfriend, a 24-year-old nicknamed “Cut Throat.” Her boyfriend had forced her into prostitution, according to Brown. 

When she got back to Allen’s house, Brown told authorities she saw a gun in a cabinet. She said she tried to avoid Allen’s advances, but when she saw him reach under his bed, she feared that there was a gun under there as well and that her life was in danger. She said she shot him with a gun she was carrying in her own purse. 

The prosecution argued, however, that Brown had intended to rob Allen because she took his wallet after the murder. Brown claimed she took it because she was afraid to go back to her boyfriend without money.

She was sentenced to serve concurrent life sentences and eight additional years on the charges of first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder and aggravated robbery, making her ineligible for parole until the age of 69.

Earlier this year, the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown gained traction with celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian calling for her release.
Advocates also called on Haslam to do what they believed was right. 

"Do not kick this decision down the road for Gov.-elect [Bill] Lee," Sen. Brenda Gilmore said in regards to Haslam's ability to grant clemency at the time. "To keep her in prison for 51 years is another travesty."