In 2004, then-16-year-old Cyntoia Brown was arrested and tried for the murder of 43-year-old Johnny Mitchell Allen after he purchased her from a sex trafficking pimp nicknamed “Cut Throat.” Although lawyers argued that Brown was acting in self-defense, and showed evidence of a lifetime of abuse in her home, the court found her guilty of murder, and sentenced her to life in prison.
Celebrities are rallying around the now-29-year-old former child abuse victim, shedding new light on her arrest and trial, using the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown and pointing people toward a heartbreaking PBS documentary outlining the young woman’s life, called Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story.
Taking to both Twitter and Instagram, celebs are sharing images of Brown, and telling her story, in the hopes of having her case reopened.
Singer Rihanna screencapped a shot from Brown’s documentary, while giving a brief synopsis of the documentary about her made by Daniel Birman. The image and note have since gone viral.
When Brown was initially tried and convicted of murder, the laws in the state of Tennessee (where she was convicted) sentenced her to 51 years in prison before the possibility of parole (which was the minimum for children tried as adults at the time). In the 13 years since her imprisonment, however, laws have changed, and although the courts now understand and support child victims of sex trafficking, Brown languishes in jail.
A MoveOn.org petition has gained new support since Brown’s story has been picked up by celebrities, and there are calls to retry her case once more. In the years since her imprisonment, Brown’s received her associate’s degree, and even acts as a mentor to other young women in prison. And even though she has never denied her actions, she has also never received justice for the abuse that led her to act in self-defense against Allen in 2004.
Reality star Kim Kardashian West not only tweeted her support for Brown, but also said she reached out to her attorneys to find out what could be done to “fix” what she believes is Brown’s wrongful conviction and imprisonment. We will update this story if Kardashian West’s inquiry leads to anything substantial.
What do you think of Cyntoia Brown’s story? Tell us @BritandCo!
(Photo via Charley Gallay/Getty Images for LACMA)