NASHVILLE, TN (WKRN) – The push to free a young Nashville woman convicted of murder is gaining national attention, thanks to several high-profile celebrities.
Cyntoia Brown, now 29, was a victim of human trafficking as a teenager. Thirteen years ago, she shot and killed a man who had purchased her for sex.
Behind Brown there have been an army of supporters who had advocated for her release for years. More recently, that group has included A-list celebrities like Rihanna, LeBron James, T.I., and Kim Kardashian West.
Kathy Sinback, who was once Cyntoia’s attorney, still speaks with her on a regular basis.
“When I talked to her about it today she was just really in shock,” Sinback told NBC4’s sister station WKRN. “She was just so moved that those celebrities would use their platform to really speak out for her. It was really meaningful to her.”
A petition asking Governor Haslam to free Cyntoia went from about 20,000 signatures to nearly 250,000 signatures in a matter of days.
Sinback hopes it will be used in Cyntoia’s clemency petition, which will filed in the next few weeks.
On Aug. 6, 2004 Brown, who was forced into prostitution by her drug-dealing boyfriend “Kutthroat,” was picked up by a 43-year-old man outside the Sonic on Murfreesboro Pike.
She went back to his home where they got into bed and she shot him in the head.
Brown claimed self-defense but the jury didn’t buy it. She was sentenced to life in prison and won’t be eligible for parole until she’s in her 60’s.
At 29, she’s spent almost half her life in prison.
Judge Sheila Calloway, who was a magistrate at the time Cyntoia was arrested and wasn’t involved in her case, is now pushing for reform.
“Her case is one those that you can see why there is a need to reform,” Calloway said. “What you have in Cyntoia’s case is a child who truly was a victim and who had a number of adverse childhood experiences.”
Calloway and Sinback say Cyntoia’s mom drank alcohol during her pregnancy and that Cyntoia was traumatized and abused growing up.
“If the jury had looked at this with a different lens, as her being a victim of human trafficking, I think the outcome would’ve been very different.”
Since she has been behind bars, Cyntoia has gotten a degree from Lipscomb, worked as a consultant for the Juvenile Justice System and helps teach classes.