Statements on Cyntoia Brown’s Clemency

Cyntoia Brown, middle, with her attorneys Charles W. Bone, left, and J. Houston Gordon, far right.

CYNTOIA DENISE BROWN STATEMENT

The following statement was issued by Cyntoia Denise Brown in response to Gov. Bill Haslam’s clemency decision: 

Cynthia Brown has been granted clemency by Governor Bill Haslam.

“Thank you, Governor Haslam, for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance.  I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me. 

I want to thank those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who saw something in me worth salvaging, especially Ms. Connie Seabrooks for allowing me to participate in the Lipscomb LIFE Program. It changed my life.  I am also grateful to those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who will work with me over the next several months to help me in the transition from prison to the free world. 

Thank you to Dr. Richard Goode and Dr. Kate Watkins and all of you at Lipscomb University for opening up a whole new world for me. I have one course left to finish my Bachelor’s degree, which I will complete in May 2019.

I am thankful for all the support, prayers, and encouragement I have received. We truly serve a God of second chances and new beginnings.  The Lord has held my hand this whole time and I would have never made it without Him.  Let today be a testament to His Saving Grace. 

Thank you to my family for being a backbone these past 14 years. 

I am thankful to my lawyers and their staffs, and all the others who, for the last decade have freely given of their time and expertise to help me get to this day. 

I love all of you and will be forever grateful.

With God’s help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people.  My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been. 

Thank you.” 

CYNTOIA BROWN’S LEGAL TEAM STATEMENT

 The following statement was issued by Charles W. Bone, shown above on left, and J. Houston Gordon, shown above on right, the lead attorneys representing Cyntoia Brown:

“We applaud Governor Haslam’s decision to grant clemency to Cyntoia. This is truly a joyful moment – for Cyntoia and for all of us who have worked to help her.

The governor’s decision is proof that our justice system works and it marks the beginning of a new chapter for Cyntoia. Her journey began in despair but was rewritten by her as one of hope and anticipation. Her transformation, when given the opportunity, is nothing short of miraculous. She is truly a remarkable young woman with so much to offer this world and will now have that chance.

This long emotional journey has touched and inspired so many people. We want to thank everyone who believed in Cyntoia and helped us get to this day. But most of all, we want to thank Governor Haslam and his legal team. Without them this day would not be possible.”

Bishop Joseph Walker III Statement

My beloved Mt. Zion and Full Gospel family and friends, I am speaking to you today with a full heart overflowing with gratitude. God is good and we are blessed. Today, Cyntoia

Bishop Joseph Walker III

Brown, who has garnered worldwide attention as the face of unjust sentencing, has been granted clemency by Tennessee’s Governor Bill Haslam. She will be released from prison in August. Once released, she will enter fully into our faith family at Mt. Zion, which has been her spiritual home for months now through our amazing Take One prison ministry. Take One, supported Cyntoia while she was incarcerated; she has asked for our continued support as she begins her new life.

Brothers and sisters, this represents an extraordinary opportunity for us as a faith community to not only embrace Cyntoia, but to walk with her in compassion, forgiveness, and mercy as she fulfills her God-given mission to become a leading national voice in the cause of restorative justice. Cyntoia, who was enslaved when she was just a child to prostitution and sex trafficking, is determined to transform a criminal justice system with a history of wrongly incarcerating or punishing more harshly black and brown perpetrators of crime, particularly women and young people. I have pledged to give Cyntoia a framework for affecting change, and to both guide and support her in her efforts.

People of Mt. Zion and Full Gospel, I know you will stand with me in honoring this pledge. Molded in the image of a merciful God, you are a merciful and loving people. I am so proud of you. I am so humbled to walk among you. I am so hopeful for our future together. Let us move forward as examples for the nation of how to make change happen through love and compassion. Let us continue to forgive and ask forgiveness, every day and in every way.

I thank God today for Governor Haslam, for Cyntoia’s extraordinary legal team at Bone McAllister Norton Partners, for our wonderful Take One prison ministry team, for Cyntoia herself – and for each and every one of you. May God bless and keep us in the days ahead. 

MAYOR BRILEY’S STATEMENT 

I am deeply grateful to Governor Haslam for his decision to commute the sentence of Cyntoia Brown today.

Mayor David Briley

He has yet again demonstrated that mercy, redemption and forgiveness have an important place in our democracy and criminal justice system.

I also want to thank my former colleagues at Bone McAllester Norton and the advocates and organizations who fought so hard for Ms. Brown’s freedom.

This is a great day for social justice and our city.

 

 

District Attorney Glenn Funk Statement 

The Governor’s decision to commute the sentence of Cyntoia Brown is an exercise of his authority under the Tennessee Constitution.

Glenn Funk, Davidson County DA

The District Attorney’s office remembers the victims in this case, who was killed as slept and whose death cannot be reversed.

The District Attorney’s office also recognizes that at the time of her offense, Ms. Brown was a juvenile and a victim of sex trafficking. 

The Governor obviously arrived at his decision after careful consideration.  He no doubt took into account the apparent rehabilitation of Ms.

Brown while in custody, including her graduation from college and her conduct while incarcerated. 

SEN. AKBARI STATEMENT  

State Sen. Raumesh Akbari released the following statement after the announcement that Gov. Bill Haslam would commute the sentence of Cyntoia Brown:

“Fifteen years ago, Cyntoia Brown found herself in a situation no teenage girl should ever

State Senator Raumesh Akbari

have to face. Governor Haslam’s commutation of Ms. Brown’s sentence demonstrates that we in the state of Tennessee can show love, compassion and mercy for someone who has experienced trauma that many of us cannot imagine.

“But today is not just a victory for Ms. Brown, it is a victory for all of us committed to the fight against sex trafficking and engaged in sincere juvenile justice reform. I am so proud of the dedication, commitment and courage of Attorney Charles Bone and Ms. Brown’s legal team.

“Over the past year, I’ve been speaking with Ms. Brown’s attorneys and met with Governor Haslam, but due to the sensitive nature of this case, I’ve refrained from publicly commenting. Today is a significant step, and I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation about juvenile sentencing reform during the 111th General Assembly.”

State Senator Katrina Robinson Statement

State Sen. Katrina Robinson was the first Tennessee legislator to publically announce her support for Cyntoia Brown. In a December 2018 letter, Senator Robinson urged Governor

State Senator Katrina Robinson

Haslam to consider granting her clemency. Today, Governor Haslam has announced her full pardon.

Sen. Robinson had sent a letter to Governor Haslam at the end of 2018 urging him to grant clemency to now 30 year old Cyntoia Brown. 

“Hearing that Cyntoia Brown has been granted clemency has been the greatest news of the New Year – just a day before we take oath of office for the 111th General Assembly. This sets the path for juvenile justice reform we need in Tennessee and in this country.”

“I am proud to have been a part of this movement, and look forward to continuing the progress we have begun over these past few months. This triumph was a team effort led by legislators, concerned citizens, and public icons all around the nation. I am thankful to Governor Haslam for his conscientious deliberation and decision.” said Sen. Robinson. Senator Robinson has been in communication with Cyntoia’s family over the past few months, stating that they are so grateful for the work everyone has done to bring Cyntoia home. They are even more grateful that Cyntoia has the opportunity to use her platform to help continue the work.”

Senator Robinson added, “My legislative team has completed a bill that would exempt minors from the controversial bill that required Ms. Brown to serve for 51 years without parole. Together, we will help right these injustices, and make Tennessee’s penal code a shining example for the United States.” Sen. Robinson said.   

Senator Robinson’s bill will be filed in the upcoming session.

STATE SENATOR BRENDA GILMORE STATEMENT

I want to sincerely thank Governor Bill Haslam for being courageous in the face of a serious decision. Governor Haslam reviewed the case and listened to thousands of voices

State Senator Brenda Gilmore

resonating across Tennessee and around the country. Although Brown made a grave mistake when she was 16, her mistake should not result in the forfeiture of her entire life.

Brown was raised in an environment saturated with physical and psychological abuse. She was later raped and trapped in a life of sex trafficking by an abusive pimp. These were the circumstances in which a man was tragically killed during his purchase of Cyntoia, a minor, for sex. Governor Haslam saw that life in prison was not justice for this abused teenager. I thank Governor Haslam for showing compassion for a black woman, which society often overlooks.

I congratulate Cyntoia Brown for making the best out of her life after this tragedy. The State of Tennessee and countless adults let her down during her childhood. But, since her incarceration, Cyntoia has done all that she can do to improve and empower herself. She has obtained a college degree and serves as a mentor to empower other female victims of sexual violence.

Cyntoia is the number one reason that she is getting this second chance, because she has grown and embraced all the positivity and progress that we expect of upstanding people in our society.

Considering her many obstacles, she has persevered and dedicated herself to personal growth.

Cyntoia should be proud of herself, and people of good conscience should be proud as well.

I would also like to thank all the supporters of this great noble effort to bring justice for this young woman. No matter whether you marched, wrote to the governor, posted on social media, informed your neighbors, or prayed for this young woman, it took all of our combined energies to get our mission accomplished and we should all be very proud and hopeful this day.

DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS CHAIR MIKE STEWART STATEMENT

Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart

Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart today issued the following statement on the upcoming release from prison of Cyntoia Brown.

“My thanks go out to Governor Bill Haslam and his staff for their announcement that he is granting Cyntoia Brown clemency and will release her on probation in August. The Governor’s actions obviously take into account the unspeakable hardships that Ms. Brown has undergone in her young life.  Hopefully, this will give her the opportunity to continue her recovery and redemption and will serve as a model of compassion for others.”

DEMOCRATIC LEADER KAREN CAMPER STATEMENT

House Democratic Caucus Leader Karen Camper this afternoon reacted to the

Democratic Leader Karen Camper

announcement that Governor Bill Haslam will release Cyntoia Brown on parole in August after serving 15 years in prison.  Brown was a 16-year-old sex trafficking victim who was sentenced to life for killing a man who paid to have sex with her.   Leader Camper’s statement follows:

“I want to take this opportunity to express my thanks to Governor Bill Haslam.  His announcement today is a testament to the transformation that Ms. Brown has been able to undergo and a major victory for the many citizens, lawyers, activists, politicians and celebrities who have fought for justice in this case.  While she may never be able to fully recover from the unimaginable hardships that she had to endure in life, her release later this year and the support that I’m sure that she will continue to receive can serve as an inspiration to her and others who have had to endure a similar fate.  It is my hope that we can build upon this in the legislature this year as we look at criminal justice reform and work to create a truly just system.”

REP. LONDON LAMAR STATEMENT 

Today, State Representative London Lamar released this statement on the announcement

Rep. London Lamar

by Gov. Bill Haslam’s office that he will grant executive clemency to Cyntoia Brown.  The statement says that she will be released on supervised parole in August after serving 15 years in prison.

“I am extremely thankful that Governor Haslam is doing the right thing and granting Cyntoia her release.  She was a 16-year-old victim of sex trafficking who was forced into a nightmarish situation. The decision to grant her clemency shows a tremendous amount of compassion for the horrors that she has endured in her life.  But it also brings to light that we need to continue to fight for other young women like Cyntoia. Her story is tragic, but unfortunately, it’s the story of many girls across this state whose innocence and dignity has been stolen. We have to pass legislation that will reduce child sex trafficking and protect its victims.  In the meantime, I am grateful that Cyntoia will get a second chance at life, elated for her and her family and want to let them know that I am here to help her in her transition.”

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