Cyntoia Denise Mitchell
January 29, 1988
|Conviction(s)||First degree murder Aggravated robbery|
|Criminal penalty||51-year- to-life imprisonment, commuted in 2019|
|Victims||Johnny Michael Allen|
|Imprisoned at||Tennessee Prison for Women|
Cyntoia Denise Brown (born Cyntoia Denise Mitchell, January 29, 1988) is an African American woman who was convicted of the murder and robbery of Johnny Michael Allen. Brown claimed that Allen had paid her $150 to have sex with him, and that she feared for her life during their encounter -- leading her to shoot Allen. Prosecutors argued that Brown killed Allen in order to rob him. Brown was found guilty and sentenced to 51-years-to-life. After renewed interest in her case in 2018, the governor of Tennessee commuted her original sentence to 15 years, scheduling her for release on August 7, 2019. Her story is detailed in the 2011 documentary Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story.
Brown was born Cyntoia Denise Mitchell to Georgina Mitchell in Tennessee on January 29, 1988.[better source needed][not in citation given] Her father is unknown. Mitchell drank alcohol during her pregnancy, which Brown's defense attorneys would later claim to have caused her to have been born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Following her pregnancy, Mitchell began to use crack cocaine. Unable to care for her infant daughter, Mitchell placed the child up for adoption. Sixteen-year-old Brown ran away from home in 2004. Before she fled, she spent time with the state's Department of Children's Services between April 2001 and September 2003 after committing "crimes against a person, and crimes against property", according to spokeswoman Carla Aaron. While in custody of the DCS, Brown spent two years in DCS facilities, including a year at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in Nashville. She fled these facilities several times.
While homeless, Brown became intimately involved with Garion L. McGlothen (also known by the street name Kut-Throat, often abbreviated to Kut or Cut), and lived at an InTown Suites hotel. McGlothen forced Brown into sex-trafficking, effectively making him Brown's pimp. As such, Brown supported McGlothen and herself via involuntary prostitution. During this time, McGlothen reportedly threatened, beat, and raped Brown on multiple occasions.[better source needed]
Murder of Johnny Allen
On the night of August 5, 2004, 16-year-old Brown met 43-year-old Johnny Mitchell Allen in the parking lot of a Sonic Drive-In on Murfreesboro Road in Nashville, Tennessee. Allen was a real estate broker and a United States Army veteran. Based on what Brown told investigators, Allen asked her if she was hungry and if she was homeless. Brown answered yes to both questions and accepted Allen's offer to take her to his house. Brown and Allen ordered dinner and Allen drove the pair to his home. At a later hearing, Brown testified that she agreed to have sex with Allen for US$150, but claimed that they never actually engaged in sexual intercourse. At some point during the encounter Brown shot Allen in the back of the head using her .40-caliber handgun. She then left the house in Allen's Ford F-150 in possession of Allen's wallet, containing US$172, and two of his firearms. Brown left the truck at a Wal-Mart parking lot and flagged down an SUV for a ride home. Police later found Brown and McGlothen at the nearby Intown Suites.
Arrest and trial
Brown was arrested and charged with homicide, especially aggravated robbery, handgun possession and criminal impersonation. Despite being under 18 at the time of the killing, she was tried as an adult. This decision came from Metro Juvenile Court Judge Betty Adams Green on November 14, 2004, who argued that it was too much of a risk to the community to keep the 16-year-old in the Juvenile Court System.
Brown stated that Allen had intimidated her by repeatedly standing over her while she lay in his bed. As further motivation for the act of self defense, she stated that she believed Allen was reaching for a firearm as the two lay in bed. Thus prompting her to shoot Allen with her own firearm, which she got from her boyfriend for her own protection. Police noted that no gun was found under or near the bed. Based on the position in which Allen's body was discovered, investigators believed that Allen may have been asleep when he was shot. Forensics noted that, postmortem, Allen was laying with his hands underneath his head. This gives credence to the prosecution's argument that the act was a homicide motivated by Brown's intent to rob Allen. Additionally, Brown admitted to stealing Allen's cash and property and expressed her intention to pawn the stolen rifles.[non-primary source needed] Prosecutors took the stance that Brown had not been in danger and that she had murdered Allen in order to steal from him.
According to court documents, Brown threatened a jail nurse prior to her trial, stating "I shot that man in the back of the head one time, bitch, I’m gonna shoot you in the back of the head three times. I’d love to hear your blood splatter on the wall.” A recording of a phone call she made to her adopted mother while in jail was also presented as further evidence against Brown, in the conversation she stated of the victim "I executed him". Further still, a fellow inmate testified that Brown had confessed to killing Allen "just to see how it felt to kill somebody." She was found guilty of first-degree murder, felony murder and aggravated robbery and sentenced to 51-years-to-life in prison.
Brown is serving her sentence at the Tennessee Prison for Women, a maximum security detention facility in Nashville, Tennessee. She would have been eligible for parole at age 67. In prison Brown has earned her high school diploma, as well as an associate degree with a 4.0 GPA. She is working towards her bachelor's degree and is on track to earn it in May 2019.
Brown's former pimp, Garion L. McGlothen, also known as Gary McGlothen and Kutthroat, died on March 30, 2005, at the age of 24, having been shot and killed by Quartez Hines. His story was featured in the 2011 documentary, Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story.
The producer of "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story," Dan Birman, continued to follow Brown's case and other instances of juveniles sentenced to long terms in a seven-part online video series in 2016-2017, "Sentencing Children," done in collaboration with the PBS series Independent Lens and reporter Anita Wadhwani at The Tennessean newspaper.
Parole and clemency hearings
Nashville police detective Charles Robinson testified in Brown's 2004 murder trial that she told investigators she shot Allen because she feared for her life. In a letter dated December 12, 2017, Robinson urged Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam not to grant clemency to Brown. In the letter, the following was mentioned: "First and foremost, Cyntoia Brown did not commit this murder because she was a child sex slave as her advocates would like you to believe. Cyntoia Brown's motive for murdering Johnny Allen in his sleep was robbery." Evidence also came to light of a note written by Brown which she had passed to a fellow inmate, Shayla Bryant. The note stated that while most of her claims about the case were true, Brown hadn't actually believed her victim had been reaching for a gun, nor had she had any feelings of nervousness.
On January 7, 2019, Haslam commuted Cyntoia Brown's sentence of life in prison to an August 7, 2019 release, plus 10 years of supervised parole. Haslam said his decision came "after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case" and further stated that "imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh."
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