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The Release of Cyntoia Brown: What it Really Means

Updated on January 10, 2019

An Overview of the Case

Tennessee governor Bill Haslam has finally granted sex trafficking victim, Cyntoia Brown clemency for her 2004 1st degree murder conviction due to popular pressure placed on the system by concerned citizens and activists. This decision came on the heels of the Tennessee Supreme Court issuing the decision just a few weeks prior that she was to serve 51 years of a life sentence before she was eligible for parole. Cyntoia Brown was just 16 years old when she was kidnapped and forced into sex slavery. In a brave to attempt to free herself from such egregious and undeserving traumatic conditions, Ms. Brown was presented with the opportunity to free herself by shooting a man who had purchased her from her captor in order to have sex with her. The right to free herself from kidnapping, enslavement and repeated rape has been completely disregarded by the system for the past 15 years. She is long overdue to be released from prison. But what does her release entail? And what does it mean for her?

The Devil is in the Details

Please forgive me for raining on this parade but, I think it's extremely important that we don't lose sight of a few things that are being overshadowed by the joyous release of sister Cyntoia Brown. Cyntoia coming home is definitely a win. And it's a win obtained by the people and their pressure. Their work has been dauntless and valiant to say the least. This is not meant to minimize the efforts of the people nor is it meant to temper the celebration of Cyntoia's return. Nevertheless, we cannot forget that the devil is in the details and Cyntoia's freedom is still very fragile. If we want sister Cyntoia to be able to stay free, then it is imperative that we examine both the conditions that grew from her situation as well as those surrounding her release. The way those conditions relate to each other will show just how this system is setting her up to fail and doing it to make it look like it's her fault if she does.

A Few Things to Consider

Before looking at the recent developments in the Cyntoia Brown case, a few of the facts surrounding her situation when it began need to be clarified.

1. Ms. Brown is, and always has been the victim in this case.

Cyntoia Brown's incarceration cannot be presumed to imply guilt or malice. Cyntoia Brown had been a victim of kidnapping and sex trafficking when the incident occured. Cyntoia Brown did not premeditate murder, she premeditated liberation. She did not kill the man who purchased her for sex at the age of 16 because she wanted to. She shot him in an attempt to escape from her captor. Had Cyntoia Brown not been kidnapped, enslaved, and sold for rape, the man she shot would still be alive.

2. Had Mr. Allen not purchased an underage girl for sex, he would still be alive.

Mr. Allen, the man who purchased Cyntoia for sex from the man was trafficking her for sex is just as complicit in her kidnapping, enslavement, and repeated rape as her captor is. By participating both physically and financially in the activities for which Cyntoia was being forced into against her will and while still legally a minor, Mr. Allen holds shared culpability in the egregious and reprehensible state Ms. Brown was being subjected to.

3. Cyntoia's attempt to free herself from bondage is the equivalent of self defense.

Anyone who's life or freedom is threatened has the right to defend themselves by whatever means is effective. Politely asking the man who just purchased you for sex against your will is not likely to aid in your escape from captivity. Cyntoia Brown had every right to defend herself by trying to obtain her freedom when the opportunity arose. If a low life piece of trash like George Zimmerman is considered innocent for brutally murdering a teenage boy in cold blood under the pretense of standing his ground, then the standard for Cyntoia's innocence was set and far surpassed by her circumstances.

Knowing What We Know Now

Considering Ms. Brown's case in light of all the information previously covered, there's a few issues that raise concern. First and foremost is that of of Ms. Brown's initial conviction. Since Cyntoia Brown was a victim of kidnapping and sex trafficking, the conviction of her guilt is invalid. Ergo, governor Haslam's decision to grant Cyntoia Brown clemency is not an act of mercy but, instead is a thinly veiled attempt to gain favor in the eyes of the public and status in his legacy without contradicting his core bigotry or upsetting his constituents. The second issue that raises concern is the conditions under which governor Haslam is releasing Ms. Brown. Instead of acknowledging her innocence and exonerating Ms. Brown, the decision to grant her clemency means that Cyntoia will be on parole for the next 10 years of her life. The conditions of her parole include the obligation of Ms. Brown to have a job. As a Black woman in the south with a 1st degree murder conviction on her record, finding and holding down a job is a privelege that only a rich, white man like Haslam would assume everyone has. Haslam is not acting on just principles. Cyntoia Brown deserves to be exonerated and cleared of her charges.

© 2019 Caleb Murphey

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