Tenn. Gov. Bill Haslam called Cyntoia Brown’s life sentence was “unjust” and that his office is looking into clemency for the former teenage sex trafficking victim serving life in prison for killing a man who bought her for sex.
“We’re reviewing a lot of cases, and while Cyntoia’s case has gotten a lot of publicity, I don’t think you want us to treat hers any different than a whole lot of cases that I think people want us to review,” Haslam said when asked at an event Monday, according to Rolling Stone.
Last week, the Tennessee Supreme Court that Brown, now 30, must serve at least 51 years behind bars after being convicted of first-degree murder, felony murder and aggravated robbery more than a decade ago.
When she was 16, Brown, a runaway living with her 24-year-old boyfriend, a pimp who went by “Kut Throat,” was picked up on the side of the road by Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen, 43, who took her home for sex.
Brown’s lawyers claim that Allen reached for his gun, at which point the teenage girl fatally shot him.
During her trial, Brown claimed she was choked, beaten and raped frequently in her home and threatened at gunpoint.
She was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison.
Since her conviction, though, Tennessee laws have changed and a person must be 18 or older to be charged for prostitution. Children are automatically considered the victim in sex trafficking cases.
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee ruled that the 2012 decision did not apply to Brown because she will be eligible for parole.
Haslam’s hedge, however, wasn’t enough for the crowd.
“What do we want? Clemency! When do we want it? Now!” the group chanted, according to Rolling Stone.
Brown’s case has become a celebrity talking point, with attention from Kim Kardashian and Rihanna in particular. Leaders of the Women’s March also called on Haslam to pardom Brown after the Supreme Court’s ruling.