The Tennessee Supreme Court has declared that Cyntoia Brown must spend a minimum of 51 years in prison.
Cyntoia Brown's story is one that you cannot help but think about long after hearing it. At a tender age, Brown became a sex trafficking victim. A teenage runaway, Brown lived in a hotel with a man called "Cut" —a man that Brown revealed sexually assaulted her and forced her into a life of prostitution. In 2004, Brown was picked up from the side of a road by a 43-year-old man named Johnny Mitchell Allen who proceeded to take her to his home with the intent of having sexual intercourse with her. While at Allen's home, Brown said that she feared for her life, and proceeded to fatally shoot Allen. Brown was subsequently sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder. She was only 16.
Brown, who is 30 years old today, is appealing her case in the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit using the 2012 Miller v. Alabama ruling as the basis of her argument. Miller v. Alabama deemed mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles unconstitutional. The US District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee ruled against Brown's appeal on the grounds that she had received a life sentence as a juvenile, not a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The Court of Appeals then reached out to the Tennessee Supreme Court to determine when a person sentenced to life in the state can become eligible for parole upon finding state sentencing laws unclear.
In a recently announced unanimous decision, the Supreme Court declared that life sentences for first-degree murders must be 60 years, and stated that sentences could only be shortened by up to 15% through good behavior. For Brown, this means a minimum of 51 years in prison, making her eligible for parole at age 69.
The Supreme court has shared their decision with the federal appeals court, which is still processing the case.