NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Cyntoia Brown, 30, who was convicted of first-degree murder when she was 16 and sentenced to life in prison, has been granted clemency by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
The case garnered national attention, and drew in high-profile celebrities among those advocating for her release.
Haslam granted Brown a full commutation to parole on Monday. Brown will be released on Aug. 7. She will be 31 years old.
Brown was sentenced to life in prison in 2006 after she fatally shot a man in the back of the head while he was lying in bed beside her. Haslam said her rehabilitation behind bars, combined with her youth at the time of the crime, warranted mercy.
Now that a decision has been made, here’s what it means:
What does clemency mean in Tennessee?
Executive clemency in Tennessee is “an act of mercy or leniency providing relief from certain consequence of a criminal conviction,” according to the state’s Executive Clemency Unit.
Only the governor can exercise executive clemency power.
More: Cyntoia Brown, who was sentenced to life in prison at 16, granted full clemency
What does executive clemency cover?
While the term “clemency” is sometimes used interchangeably with “pardon” and “commutation,” there are several differences between them.
According to the Executive Clemency Board, the various forms of clemency include:
- Commutation: Substitution of a lesser sentence for a greater sentence.
- Pardon: Statement of forgiveness. Does not delete conviction from record.
- Exoneration: Declaration of Innocence that requires written legal documentation. Conviction is deleted from record.
- Reprieves: Request to delay the impending punishment or sentence.
Do any of the charges remain?
Yes. Since this was a commutation and not an exoneration, the charges will still remain on Brown’s record.
When will Cyntoia Brown be released from prison?
Brown will be released from prison on Aug. 7. She will stay on parole for 10 years.
How long was Cyntoia Brown in prison?
By the time she is released, Brown will have served nearly 15 years in custody, a sentence her lawyers said was typical for second degree murder. She has been in custody since her 2004 arrest and Brown was convicted on Aug. 25, 2006.
Why will the release take so long?
Brown will have to “fully and actively participate in assigned transition and re-entry programming prior to her release from incarceration.” That program will take about six months.
Are there any other requirements with the clemency?
Several, including mandatory participation in regular counseling sessions. She will also be required to perform at least 50 hours of community service, which include working with at-risk youth.
Additionally, she must get a job and complete her bachelor’s degree, which she is on track to obtain in May of this year.