Cyntoia Brown, the Nashville woman serving life for killing a man who picked her up for sex while she was being pimped as a teenager, will receive a clemency hearing that could lead to her release, officials said on Thursday, according to media reports. It will be her first clemency hearing since she was sentenced nearly 13 years ago, at age 17.
Brown’s case has attracted the public support of celebrities including Rihanna, LeBron James, Snoop Dogg, and Kim Kardashian-West.
A parole board, appointed by the governor, will hear Brown’s request on May 23 and decide whether to recommend that she be released from the Tennessee Prison for Women, where she is serving life for fatally shooting Johnny Allen, 43, in 2004.
Brown had run away from her adopted family at 16 and lived in a motel with a pimp known as “Kut Throat” who raped and abused her while forcing her to become a prostitute, Charles Bone, her lawyer, said last year.
Allen picked her up and drove her to his home, where Brown shot him. She said she saw him reaching under his bed and thought he was getting a gun, according to court documents. She took money and two guns and fled.
Tried as an adult, Brown’s claim of self-defense was rejected by a jury in 2006. She was found guilty of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery.
The announcement of the clemency hearing comes two days after an appeals court agreed to hear oral arguments in the case on June 14.
Brown’s supporters have described her as a model inmate. While in prison, she took classes from Lipscomb University, a private Christian college in Nashville, and earned an associate degree.
But Jeff Burks, who prosecuted Brown and is now an assistant district attorney in Madison, Ga., argues that she shouldn’t be considered a victim of trafficking, and that she tried to recruit someone to return to Allen’s apartment after killing him to steal from it.