'It Could Happen': Legal Expert Speaks On Possibility Of Cyntoia Brown Getting Released Early
Legal experts believe that Cyntoia Brown might be able to obtain an early release because of the attention surrounding her case.
Speaking with PEOPLE magazine, University of Memphis professor Steve Mulroy said that Brown’s life sentence could be commuted by this time next year. Although commutations are considered a rarity in Tennessee (less than one percent of those requests are granted), Mulroy believes Brown’s outcome could be different just based upon the advocacy surrounding her case.
“I think the national focus helps,” Mulroy said. “There is also a compelling argument for commutation here. The governor only has a year left in office, and has tended to be more moderate than your average Tennessee Republican, who are tough on law and order issues. I suppose there’s a chance it could happen.”
“The legal standard for commutation of a sentence is someone who makes exceptional strides in self-improvement and rehabilitation, to the point where they are no longer considered to be a threat,” he added. “She appears to be a model prisoner and got a bachelor’s degree. In addition to the tragic circumstances that got her to commit the crime in the first place, and the national spotlight she now has on her case, since she has been incarcerated, she really seems to have turned her life around.”
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is currently looking into Brown’s case. Haslam’s administration has begun gathering information on Brown but said that a decision to grant her clemency is unlikely to come until next year.
“I would be really surprised by the end of the year,” Haslam said. “I think we’re just starting to gather the information.”
According to Mulroy, Haslam has the ability to commute Brown’s sentence entirely and reduce it to time served, or he could cut enough time off to make her “parole eligible, which would allow the parole board to consider her case.” Haslam, who has been governor since 2011, has not granted a commutation since being in office.
“Usually, a governor will wait until the end of their second term to make any commutations. If he takes any action at all, it would not be until late next year,” Haslam said.
He drove her back to his house where his strange behavior frightened her and made her want to escape. When she couldn’t sneak away, she said she wanted to nap. He lay down with her but didn’t fall asleep. He kept getting up and standing over her. She became more panicked, convinced something was going to happen to her. Finally, she shrugged off his advances and, as he rolled over, she took a gun from her purse and shot him once in the head.
Brown admitted that she shot and killed Allen but did so because she feared he would kill her. However, prosecutors argued that Brown robbed Allen after she killed him, with his pants, wallet, and some guns in her possession when apprehended. Ultimately, she was sentenced to life in prison, only eligible for parole after serving 51 years.