Who is Cyntoia Brown and why is everyone talking about her?

The case of a woman who was jailed for 51 years at the age of 16 is back in the headlines as celebrities rally around her cause.

In 2006, Cyntoia Brown was found guilty of murdering 43-year-old Johnny Allen with a gun in 2004 after he picked her up for sex in Murfreesboro Pike, Tennessee.

Cyntoia did not deny killing Allen, but she claims she was defending herself as he reached for a gun.

Cyntoia was subjected to sexual and physical abuse for a long period of her life. She was prostituted by a boyfriend after a difficult childhood. Her lawyers say she has also been permanently affected by foetal alcohol syndrome.

Under Tennessee law, anyone convicted of first degree murder must serve a minimum of 51 years in prison, regardless of age. Brown will be 67 by the time her parole is reviewed.

Has the world heard about Cyntoia’s case before?

Her case was first brought to national attention when film-maker Dan Birman created a documentary about her case. Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story was released on PBS in 2011 and included exclusive access to Cyntoia’s family and the court process, as well as Cyntoia herself.

The documentary inspired the Tennessee justice system to change the law for children who commit these offences. Now people under the age of 18 cannot be charged with prostitution.

Why are people bringing it up again now?

Pop star Rihanna was one of the first to share an Instagram post about the case on Tuesday. Her post has since been shared by figures such as Cara Delevingne and Kim Kardashian – thereby forcing her case into the limelight.

A petition asking US President Donald Trump to give Cyntoia a presidential pardon has attracted more than 190,000 signatures, many coming in the days since celebrities began to support her cause.

What’s happened to Cyntoia since her conviction?

Cyntoia has been imprisoned for almost 13 years, and during that time has completed an associate’s degree.

She is now working on her bachelors degree and mentoring other prisoners at the Tennessee Prison for Women.


 

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