Opinion: The Unfair Case of Cyntoia Brown


Andrea Sanchez, Editor

According to the Juvenile Justice Foundation, there are at least 2,250 juveniles in the U.S. sentenced to life without parole for offenses committed when they were juveniles. Cyntoia Brown is one of many juveniles who could spend the rest of her life in prison. Brown was found guilty of first-degree murder, felony murder, and aggravated robbery at the mere age of 16. She pleaded self-defense in her case which reduced the charge from homicide to manslaughter.  Johnny Allen, 43, was found shot in the head lying face down in his bed.

To determine whether or not Cyntoia Brown deserved to be sentenced so harshly as an adult, both her life circumstances and the facts of the trial will be reviewed to see if any of this played a role in the killing of Allen.

Cyntoia Brown was only a child and her history of abandonment and abuse are as tragic as the events that took place which took a man’s life and destroyed the life of a young teenager. Cyntoia Brown came from a troubled background, with an absent father and a careless mother who abused drugs and alcohol while pregnant which caused Cyntoia to suffer from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Even after Cyntoia was born, her mother’s drug use became much more prominent which resulted in Brown being put up for adoption. Along with the fact that her mother was an avid drug user, her mother’s family also had a history of mental illness and depression.

Despite all that, Cyntoia was adopted by a loving and nurturing family. However, she was unable to connect with the family. 

Due to the fact that she was unable to connect with the family that took her in, she ran away and began to hang around with the wrong crowd. She also began to use drugs and got involved with people who used and sold them. The men she hung around saw Cyntoia as an easy target and wanted her to work for them. To not sugarcoat things they wanted to prostitute her. Cyntoia being traumatized from her childhood and not knowing anything other than toxic relationships, she found herself being abused and dominated by these men. Brown had gone to live with this man who went by “Kut” who was prostituting her. She stayed with him for about 3 weeks and was not able to leave due to being raped, beat and forced to have sex at gunpoint. She was emotionally manipulated by him and in her testimony she said, “He would explain to me that some people were born whores and that I was one, and I was a lut, and nobody wants me but him, and the best thing I could do was just learn to be a good whore.”

You can only imagine the impact this would have on a young teenage girl. Being the vulnerable young 16 year old she was persuaded by men who led her to believe they cared about her. She was forced and felt as if she had no other option but to stay. Cyntoia committed the act that she did as she was in danger. She was not in a safe environment and was acting in self-defense. She was done being used and did what she felt she had to in order to escape.

It has now been 15 years since Cyntoia Brown was incarcerated. Cyntoia has spent most of her teenage years and a good portion of her adulthood in prison. She has made the effort to transform and work on rehabilitation. She has done a number of things ranging from working on her college degree to also mentoring troubled youth. Cyntoia plans to begin her own non-profit organization so that she can help other young people who have been put in similar situations. She has been nothing but a good inmate since she was incarcerated. With all the efforts that Cyntoia has been making while in prison, it is more than clear that she is more than willing to become a functioning member of society. She would even go as far to help troubled youth with her non-profit. That is something that could be helpful from keeping juveniles out of trouble. Her advocates say this about her, “She is light years today, as a woman, different from the traumatized 16-year-old that she was.”

Cyntoia Brown deserves to be compensated for the injustices the system put her through. Cyntoia Brown deserves to be let out on parole effective immediately. She was a mere child when she was tried as an adult for an act she committed in order to stay safe. The system overlooked her history and did not take the circumstances of her troubled life into consideration. She had her whole life taken away from her, and despite all that she managed to be a model inmate, she also managed to get her degree and start a nonprofit. Upon release, Cyntoia will be ready to take on the real world and become a functioning member of society who is willing to do good in her community. No child should be put through what Cyntoia Brown was put through, and the injustices should not continue.