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Woman: I Killed in Self-Defense. Court: 51 Years Behind Bars

Cyntoia Brown says she was forced into prostitution as teen, shot man to save her own life
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2018 8:43 AM CST
In this May 23, 2018, file photo, Cyntoia Brown appears in court during her clemency hearing at the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville, Tenn.   (Lacy Atkins/The Tennessean via AP, Pool)

(Newser) – Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, and others have gone to bat for a woman fighting a life sentence for killing a man when she was a teen, after she says she was forced into prostitution by her pimp boyfriend. Now, per People, the Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that Cyntoia Brown, 30, must serve at least 51 years before she can get parole; she'd be 69 when eligible. It was a unanimous decision Thursday, CNN notes, after the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals asked the state Supreme Court to weigh in, as state law was unclear. The ruling was in response to Brown's argument that the US Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to give juveniles mandatory life sentences without parole (a lower court noted her life sentence did include the possibility of parole), as well as that it's "cruel and unusual punishment." The appeals court rejected her first argument but is still reviewing the second.

Brown was 16 when she killed Johnny Mitchell Allen in 2004, a real estate agent she says solicited her for sex after she was forced to serve as a prostitute by her boyfriend, "Kut Throat," HuffPost notes. She contends she shot Allen after she saw him reach for a gun; prosecutors, however, said she was trying to rob Allen, and she was tried and convicted as an adult. Many are noting that Brown, a woman of color who says she killed in self-defense, is receiving a more severe punishment than whites who commit crimes. HuffPost cites the example of Jeffrey Epstein, the hedge fund manager sentenced to just 13 months in prison after being accused of sex-trafficking young girls. "The system has failed," Kim Kardashian tweeted last year, calling the case "heartbreaking" and saying she was going to get her lawyers involved. (Teen prostitutes are a "human rights scandal" in US.)

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