There has been renewed interest in the case of a young African American woman named Cyntoia Brown that sounds like it’s straight from an episode of ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder. A victim of sex trafficking back in 2004, she was handled by a pimp named “Kutthroat” and after enduring multiple forms of abuse was sold to a realtor from Nashville, TN named Johnny Allen, age 43 at the time. Cyntoia was able to liberate herself from her captor by shooting and killing the man that was using her as a sex slave but authorities decided to charge her with murder and prostitution, as an adult. She was convicted by a jury and won’t be eligible for parole until she is 69-years-old. She is currently 29.
Her story was documented by filmmaker Dan Birman in 2011’s “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story” and when he posted her picture and story on social media this week, the post went viral once pop superstar Rihanna and reality personality Kim Kardashian shared it. Other celebrities including T.I. have voiced their support. The increased awareness about Cyntoia’s plight has brought several disturbing facts to light. Cyntoia’s case has forced multiple states to reconsider trying minors as prostitutes and instead treating them as victims of human trafficking. However, since she was tried by a jury before the law could be changed, she is still bound by her original sentence. It seems very likely that Cyntoia’s race had a factor in her being tried as an adult. According to an NY Times article
, 84% of minors tried as adults in America are Black.
There is no way this woman should be forced to live behind bars for 40 more years. It seems geography, race, and politics all collided and the result was a warped form of Southern justice. Hopefully the exposure her case is receiving will result in a new look at this appalling situation. As for a change in policy, People reported
that “efforts are underway in Tennessee to change the law to require teens sentenced to life get a mandatory 15- or 20-year review of their sentences. If passed, Brown could have her sentence reviewed at age 31 or 36. Last year, advocates in Tennessee failed to pass a bill that would have required a review of a life sentence by the original sentencing court after 15 years.”
If this injustice was allowed to happen once, it will surely be repeated if the system isn’t changed. Until then, galvanizing support behind the #FreeCyntoiaBrown movement has already re-tried this case in the court of public opinion and she has been found innocent.