Parole board divided on clemency bid by Cyntoia Brown, whose case sparked documentary and Hollywood support

PHOTO: Cyntoia Brown, the Nashville woman sentenced to life in prison at age 16 for the murder of a stranger who picked her up at a fast food restaurant, speaks at a clemency hearing in Nashville, May 23, 2018.PlayLacy Atkins/The Tennessean via USA Today Network
WATCH Convicted murderer Cyntoia Brown, subject of documentary, makes clemency bid

Members of the Tennessee Board of Parole and Probation are divided on whether or not to release Cyntoia Brown from prison, a parole board spokeswoman said.

Brown, who has been in prison since 2006 for killing a man who hired her for sex while she was a 16-year old prostitute, made her case for clemency at a hearing before the board today.

Two members of the board voted to release Brown, two other denied her request and two more said she should come up for parole after serving 25 years in prison, Tennessee Board of Parole and Probation spokeswoman Melissa McDonald told ABC News. The decision will ultimately be made by Governor Bill Haslam.

Without a clear consensus from the parole board, it remains unclear what Haslam, a second term governor who has yet to grant any requests for clemency, will do about Brown's clemency bid.

PHOTO: Cyntoia Brown, the Nashville woman sentenced to life in prison at age 16 for the murder of a stranger who picked her up at a fast food restaurant, speaks at a clemency hearing in Nashville, May 23, 2018.Lacy Atkins/The Tennessean via USA Today Network
Cyntoia Brown, the Nashville woman sentenced to life in prison at age 16 for the murder of a stranger who picked her up at a fast food restaurant, speaks at a clemency hearing in Nashville, May 23, 2018.

At the hearing, Brown expressed her apologies for killing 43-year-old Johnny Allen in 2004. She said that she thinks about it everyday and knows she can never take it back, according to McDonald.

Brown’s case gained attention last year thanks to social media posts by celebrities, including Kim Kardashian and Rihanna, calling for her release.

Her attorney, Charlie Bone, said she was a victim of sex trafficking and was acting in self-defense in 2004 when she shot and killed Allen.

She confessed to the killing and was tried as an adult and convicted that year of first-degree murder. Under Tennessee sentencing laws, Brown will not be eligible for parole until she has served 51 years in prison.

Her case received attention in 2010 after the release of a documentary called “Me Facing Life: the Cyntoia Brown Story.” Bone began representing her that year after watching the documentary.

He told ABC News that Brown's story is about more than one woman's clemency bid.

"It is about her, but it's also about the issues, and I think that's what she feels strongly about. The issues of sex trafficking and sex slavery and juvenile justice all need a lot of attention throughout the world - but especially here in Tennessee."

Brown, now 30 years old, was forced to have sex with other men by Garion “Cut Throat” McGlothen and experienced physical and sexual abuse, according to an amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by her attorneys in 2015. McGlothen died in 2005. +

Brown earned her associate's degree from Lipscomb University in December 2015 while incarcerated, her attorney said.

In Tennessee, after a clemency case, a parole board makes a recommendation to the state's governor, who has the final say.

Bone said Brown is grateful for the attention and celebrity support she's received since her incarceration.

"We have been very, very surprised," Bone said. "The entire [legal] team, as well as Cyntoia, obviously had no idea that this was going to happen or why it happened, and she is very appreciative of the support from everyone,"

Wednesday's clemency hearing will be Brown's first chance at freedom since her arrest in 2004.

ABC News' Kaelyn Forde contributed to this report

Comments