Credo Action

Free Cyntoia Brown

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Petition to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam:

"Grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown."

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    Free Cyntoia Brown

    Far too often, when white men shoot people of color, they are allowed to use race-based fears to claim they were acting in self-defense and avoid consequences for their actions. And far too often, when people of color try to make claims of self-defense, they are punished with the full weight of the criminal justice system.

    In 2004, Cyntoia Brown was a 16-year old whose adult boyfriend was trafficking her for sex. When she killed a man who had hired her for sex – because she thought he was going to shoot her – the state of Tennessee charged her with murder, tried her as an adult and sentenced her to life in prison, even though it should have considered her a victim of sex trafficking.1

    Now, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is deciding whether to grant clemency for Brown before he leaves office in January.3 We're running out of time to ask him to make the right call.

    Tell Gov. Haslam: Grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown.

    Cyntoia's story has made national headlines. Her lawyers mounted vigorous challenges, contesting both her initial conviction and the sentencing of a minor to life in prison. A PBS documentary and the pop star Rihanna put Brown's case in the national spotlight.4

    The Tennessee Supreme Court recently ruled that people who, like Brown, were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison must serve at least 51 years in prison before being eligible for parole. In May, the Tennessee clemency board split in its recommendation to Gov. Haslam, with some members advocating Brown's release, others a reduced sentence and a few the full prison term.5 Democratic lawmakers in Tennessee just spoke out to encourage Gov. Haslam to grant clemency.6

    Gov. Haslam already indicated he is at least open to clemency and will decide in the next few weeks before leaving office. We must raise our voices as loud as possible right now.

    Tell Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam: Grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown.

    Thank you for speaking out.


    1. Lilly Dancyger, "Tennessee Governor considering clemency for Cyntoia Brown," Rolling Stone, Dec. 11, 2018.
    2. Dakin Andone, "Tennessee's governor is still weighing clemency for Cyntoia Brown," CNN, Dec. 13, 2018.
    3. Ibid.
    4. Jonathan Garcia, "A timeline of the Cyntoia Brown case, conviction and bid for clemency," The Tennessean, Dec. 11, 2018.
    5. Andone, "Tennessee's governor is still weighing clemency for Cyntoia Brown."
    6. Natalie Allison, "Democratic lawmakers call on Gov. Haslam to grant Cyntoia Brown clemency," The Tennessean, Dec. 14, 2018.