On Wednesday evening, a Tennessee parole board was unable to come to a conclusion on recommendations for a potential change in the length of prison time for a former child sex slave, who shot and killed the man who had purchased her for sex when she was 16 years old. In other words, the long awaited update for Cyntoia Brown's prison sentence is once again falling short of any real conclusion. She is currently serving a life sentence for killing her abuser, although the parole board did (and still does) have the power to change the terms of her sentencing.
According to The New York Times, Brown ran away from her adoptive family and unstable home at 16 years old, and ended up living in a hotel with a pimp named "Cut Throat" who eventually pulled her into prostitution.
“[Cut Throat] would explain to me that some people were born whores," Brown said, via Fox News, adding that he also said, "I was a slut, and nobody [would] want me but him, and the best thing I could do was just learn to be a good whore."
Brown reportedly met Allen at a fast food restaurant, according to The New York Times, and went home with him. When they were in bed, she claimed that he reached over the side of the bed, and since she feared for her life, she shot him and ran away. The prosecution argued in turn that Brown wanted to rob Allen, instead.
Currently, the parole board is split between three options, according to NBC News: Two people reportedly voted for clemency (meaning full mercy, allowing her to be done with her sentence entirely), two voted that she complete her entire sentence, and two voted to reduce her sentence to 25 years, meaning that she would get out of jail in 2029.
If Brown serves her full sentence, that means that she will get out of jail when she's 67 years old. Unsurprisingly in a case like this, Brown has garnered a wide support system, from the support of her correctional facility to the support of celebrities across the spectrum. The New York Times reports that Brown has been described as a model inmate, while NBC News confirms that Brown has received her GED and is working toward a bachelor's degree.
Furthermore, celebrities such as Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Lebron James, and Cara Delevingne have spoken out about the the questionable logic of locking a sex trafficking victim up for defending herself against rape and sexual abuse, as she was even a minor at the time.
Brown herself reportedly spoke several times at the hearing, according to NBC News. “If you let me out I will never go back to being that person," she said to the parole board. "I’m completely changed. I won’t disappoint you, I won’t let you down.” Apparently that appeal fell on a few deaf ears. Now, Brown's request for early parole will go to an appeals court on July 14, The New York Times reports.
Others are hoping that the governor of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, will step in and give Brown an official pardon, allowing her to sidestep the parole hearing.
Governor Haslam has yet to comment on the split parole result. Since Brown's jailing, The Tennessean reports that over a dozen national justice groups have contributed to a legal brief demanding Brown's release. The central argument for the brief is that most U.S. Supreme Court decisions have declared a sentence of life imprisonment for juveniles wholly unconstitutional.
According to NBC News, over a dozen witnesses spoke on her behalf at the parole hearing on Wednesday, though it didn't seem enough to sway the board. Connie Seabrook, who works in the prison education system, said of Brown, "She’s a cocoon transformed into a beautiful butterfly."