Serving life sentence, Cyntoia Brown faces divided parole board in clemency bid
Tennessee's governor may soon decide if Cyntoia Brown will serve the rest of her life sentence for killing a man she said solicited her for sex when she was a minor. Brown was 16 years old when she shot and killed Johnny Allen. Brown is now 30, and her case has drawn support from celebrities like Rihanna and LeBron James.
For the first time in nearly 14 years behind bars, Brown met with Tennessee's board of parole for three and a half hours on Wednesday, reports CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan.
"I've prayed for a very long time to be able to meet with you," an emotional Brown said.
The six-member panel was divided: two recommended Brown's sentenced be commuted, two said she should be up for parole in 2029, and two denied her request for clemency.
Brown, seen in the 2011 documentary "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story," said 43-year-old Johnny Allen picked her up in 2004 in an area of Nashville known for prostitution. She said Allen agreed to pay her $150 with the intent to have sex and drove her to his home.
"He just grab me like in between my legs…like he just grabbed it real hard. Then he just gave me this look… He rolls over and reaches like he's reaching to the side of the bed or something. So I'm thinking like, no, he's not going to hit me – he's gonna get a gun," Brown said in the documentary.
"And what did you do at that time?" the prosecutor asked.
"I grabbed the gun, and I shot him," Brown said.
At Wednesday's clemency hearing, Allen's family friend, Anna Whaley, cast doubt on Brown's argument that she shot Allen in self-defense.
"There was a quilt and a pillow downstairs on a sofa that leads me to believe he may have offered her a safe place to sleep that night," Whaley said.
Brown, who has since earned an associate degree while in prison with a 4.0 GPA, said she is now committed to serving others.
"I've been able to help people, which is amazing. Young people," Brown said.
Nearly 20 people spoke on Brown's behalf, including 12-year-old Grant Hays whose family agreed to host Brown if she is released.
Tonya Stafford, a human trafficking survivor, drove from Dallas to support Brown.
"It could have been me. Because I had those thoughts. I didn't act upon them. But with my perpetrator, I had those thoughts," Stafford said.
A spokesman for Gov. Bill Haslam said he and his legal counsel will thoroughly review Brown's application and the board of parole's recommendation before making a decision. If her clemency request is denied, Brown won't be eligible for parole until nearly 40 years from now – when she's 69.