The first Monday of 2019 arrived with a gift, justice in the state of Tennesee. After years of advocacy and appeals, the Tennesee’s Govenor has granted full clemency for Cyntoia Brown. This news comes after the Tenessee Supreme Court ruled Brown would only be eligible for parole after serving 51 years in prison.
Cyntoia Brown made national news after receiving a life sentence when she was found guilty of murder in 2004. Brown, caught up in human trafficking as a young teen, killed a man fearing for her life. A jury subsequently found her guilty after a controversial trial that challenged the way our justice system looks at human trafficking, domestic abuse, sexual, and criminal justice reform as a whole.
After the Tennesee Supreme Court ruling, many believed clemency was Brown’s only chance at receiving justice. But after Governor Bill Haslam released his initial clemency orders, Brown was left off the list; hope was all but lost. Following public outcry, the governor pledged to consider Brown’s case for clemency as one of his final acts before leaving office this week. Today, justice has finally come for Cyntoia, and she will be released on August 7 after serving more than 14 years of her initial life sentence.
Brown’s case should set the stage for much needed reforms of our criminal justice system as well as how we look at and treat victims of human trafficking and domestic abuse. If a man in Florida can shoot and kill an unarmed black boy whom he suspected might commit a crime without evidence or a trial, a woman ought to be able to protect herself from sexual assault and abuse and live freely after doing so.