A Black woman who was 16-years-old when she killed a man who solicited her for sex will serve at least 51 years in prison before she’s eligible for release according to the Tennessee Supreme Court.
The court said Cyntoia Brown and any other defendant who has been convicted of first-degree murder after July 1, 1995, and sentenced to life, cannot become eligible for release from prison before serving more than five decades CNN reported.
The court was unanimous in their decision against Brown, who was convicted of killing Johnny Allan, 43, in 2004 when he took her to his house for sex. Brown said she killed him after she feared he would kill her.
Thursday’s ruling came in response to a suit that Brown argues her sentence is unconstitutional, drawing a connection to a 2012 opinion by the US Supreme Court that stated mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders violate the US Constitution.
Tennessee Supreme Court explained in the statement that “under state law, a life sentence is a determinate sentence of 60 years. However, the sixty-year sentence can be reduced by up to 15 percent, or 9 years, by earning various sentence credits.”
According to the Tennessee code, those credits include recognizing good behavior or participation in educational or vocational training programs.
A district court previously denied Brown’s motion, pointing out she hadn’t been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The case is still pending judgment by the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which asked the Tennessee Supreme Court to share its opinion.
Brown said she was forced into prostitution after a difficult childhood. During her trial, Brown said Johnny Mitchell Allen solicited her for sex and drove her to his home. Then she saw a gun cabinet in Allen’s room, she said during her trial. She resisted him until he appeared to reach under the bed, at which point she believed he was going to kill her. Brown took a gun out of her purse and shot Allen, killing him CNN reported.
While Brown was in prison she attained her GED and received an associate degree from Lipscomb University, and she wants to go for a Bachelor of Arts.