NEWS
08/01/2019 08:05 GMT | Updated 08/01/2019 08:09 GMT

Cyntoia Brown: Sex Trafficking Victim Jailed For Murder Granted Clemency After Celebrity Campaign

She was a teenage sex trafficking victim who feared for her life.

An American woman serving a life sentence for murder has been granted clemency after celebrities rallied around her cause.

In 2006, Cyntoia Brown was found guilty of murdering 43-year-old Johnny Allen with a gun in 2004 after he picked her up for sex in Murfreesboro Pike, Tennessee.

Then aged just 16, Brown did not deny killing Allen, but she claims she was defending herself as he reached for a gun. Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna are some of the celebrities who have appealed for Brown’s freedom.

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Cyntoia Brown has been granted clemency by Tennessee governor Bill Haslam

Brown was subjected to sexual and physical abuse for a long period of her life. She was prostituted by a boyfriend after a difficult childhood. Her lawyers say she has also been permanently affected by foetal alcohol syndrome.

Under Tennessee law, anyone convicted of first degree murder must serve a minimum of 51 years in prison, regardless of age.

But Tennessee governor Bill Haslam said he would show mercy to Brown by releasing her on 7 August. The 30-year-old will remain on parole for 10 years.

Brown said in a statement that she will do everything to justify Haslam’s faith in her and thanked her family for their support.

Her case was first brought to national attention when film-maker Dan Birman created a documentary about her case. Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story was released on PBS in 2011 and included exclusive access to Cyntoia’s family and the court process, as well as Cyntoia herself.

The documentary inspired the Tennessee justice system to change the law for children who commit these offences. Now people under the age of 18 cannot be charged with prostitution.

Pop star Rihanna was one of the first to share an Instagram post about the case on Tuesday. Her post has since been shared by figures such as Cara Delevingne and Kim Kardashian – thereby forcing her case into the limelight.

A petition asking US President Donald Trump to give Brown a presidential pardon has attracted more than 190,000 signatures, many coming in the days since celebrities began to support her cause.

Brown has been imprisoned for almost 13 years, and during that time has completed an associate’s degree.

She is now working on her bachelors degree and mentoring other prisoners at the Tennessee Prison for Women.