Haslam to consider clemency for reported sex abuse victim who committed murder at age 16

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says his administration has begun gathering information on Cyntoia Brown, a Nashville woman whose murder conviction has become a cause célèbre, reports WPLN. But a decision on whether to grant her clemency is unlikely to come until the last days of his term in January, 2019, in keeping with a tradition established by predecessors.

Brown was convicted more than a decade ago for the murder of a Nashville man. Advocates for Brown say she was caught up in a so-called “sexual abuse-to-prison pipeline.” At 16 years old at the time of the crime, Brown says she was the victim of sex trafficking.

She maintains that she killed because she feared for her life. Now 29 years old, Brown has been held up as an example of how the justice system often harshly punishes children forced into prostitution or other crimes.

In recent weeks, high-profile celebrities like Rihanna, Kim Kardashian West and Snoop Dogg have called for Brown’s life sentence to be overturned. And over the weekend, another supporter, the human rights organization Rights4Girls, told NPR’s Weekend Edition they’re turning to Tennessee’s governor to win Brown’s release.

But Haslam says he hasn’t yet seen a formal clemency appeal. And once it arrives, it’ll take time before he acts on it.

“I would be really surprised by the end of the year,” he says. “I think we’re just starting to gather the information.”

Note: Haslam’s immediate predecessor, former Gov. Phil Bredesen granted 22 pardons and four commutations (one being a reduction of a death sentence to life in prison) during the last days of his final term. A 2016 Tennessee Bar Journal article providing considerable information, statistics and some commentary on the topic is HERE. While the clemency scandal during former Gov. Ray Blanton’s last days caused a huge uproar (including the early ouster of Blanton and ultimately criminal convictions of Blanton staffers), author Benjamin Raybin says the record for granting pardons is held by  Gov. Malcolm Patterson (1907-11) — more than 1,400 pardons in four years or more than double Blanton’s actions.

And WPLN has more on the Brown case HERE.

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