NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMOT/TNS) -- Human Trafficking advocates were thrilled when Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted Cyntoia Brown clemency earlier this month, but not everyone supported the decision to void her life-sentence for murder.
Brown was sixteen when she shot and killed Nashville resident Johnny Allen. Allen bought the girl from a pimp who was trafficking Brown for sex. Brown shot Allen in the head, saying she feared he was about to kill her. She received a life sentence as a juvenile for that murder.
Nashville based End Slavery Tennessee advocates for trafficking victims in the mid-state. CEO Derri Smith says she hopes Gov. Haslam’s decision in the Cyntoia Brown case will change attitudes about Tennessee’s trafficking problem.
"Cyntoia, in her original transcript, was referred to continually as a 'teen prostitute.' We understand today, there is no such thing – if a 16-year-old is being sold for commercial sex, she's a human trafficking victim, and she needs services and not criminalization."
Without the governor’s clemency decision, Cyntoia Brown would not have been eligible for parole until 2055. Smith says it's key for state leaders to understand the depth of the human-trafficking problem.
"Eighty-six percent of the identified cases are actually U.S. citizens… It happens in rural areas, and suburbs and small towns, as frequently as it does in urban areas."
Opponents of Brown’s release point to a letter from the detective who investigated her case. Metro Detective Charles Robinson told the governor, “Brown did not commit this murder because she was a child sex slave... Cyntoia Brown's motive for murdering Johnny Allen in his sleep was robbery.”