An Open Letter to Governor Elect Bill Lee
Link to our Change.org Petition for Ms. Brown
I was born and raised in Tennessee and I’ve lived there my whole life. Even growing up in the sleepy rural areas, I’ve always been proud of my home state. We have one of the best economies in the country and some of the best people in the world call Tennessee home.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the case of Cyntoia Brown, the decisions made do not reflect the values my Tennessee upbringing instilled in me.
I doubt you’re not familiar with this as it has been a trending news story on multiple occasions over the past few years, but if you are, I’ll catch you up.
Cyntoia Brown is currently serving a life sentence for the first degree murder of Johnny Mitchell Allan in 2004. At the time she was 16 years of age, Allan being 43. Brown grew up in an abusive home and had become a runaway and fell into a life of prostitution, abuse, and drug use due to her pimp, 24 year old “Cut Throat”. She was tried as an adult and found guilty at trial and has served the past 14 years behind bars. In May, the Tennessee Board of Parol was spilt 2/2/2 on whether to grant clemency, deny it, or make her parole eligible in 25 years. Now as of this week, the Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled she must spend 51 years behind bars before she is eligible to be released, though she has been labeled as a “model inmate”. Let that sink in for a moment. A person who went to prison at as a teenager will now be in prison 4 times longer than the time they were “free”, though I believe that growing up in the conditions Ms. Brown did, she has never been free.
Mr. Lee, I’m not a celebrity, I’m not a rich person looking for a bandwagon cause to get behind. I have nothing to gain from this. I’m a normal Tennessean. I grew up believing in the values of family, community, and doing what’s right by others. I served 8 years in the Tennessee National Guard because of my convictions at the time to give back to a community that had always been there for me. So I find it insulting as a veteran being told that we fight all over and police the world so “freedom and justice” will be kept here at home, only to see that neither has been given to a member of our Tennessee community.
Once again we’re talking about a 16 year old being prostituted out to a man more than twice her age, taking his life for the fear of her own, and now will be 20 years older than the predator that got her here when she’s eligible to be a normal member of society again. We as a community have allowed the justice system to fail one of our own. We’re not talking about a common street “thug.” We’re talking about a victim of sexual slavery that took the law into her own hands for fear of her life because our juvenile system failed her only to turn around and have our Justice system do it as well.I’ve always found it odd that a state that touts so highly on its conservative values, would shut down an appeal on a case where a child fought back against a child predator.
Mr. Lee, I know the time up until you swear in will be busy, and I know that time after you take office will be as well. On the other hand, I also know that Tennessee is stable and doing well, in my humble opinion, for you to serve due diligence to look into this matter for yourself and strongly consider pardoning Ms. Brown. I know you are a family man and have children of your own, I know you’d never want to see your child in this position much like most loving parents in our great state and across the country would. Remember, that is something Ms. Brown never got the pleasure of experiencing for herself growing up, but now is a time we can fix that.
The right to self-defense is paramount to a free society and is a right afforded to all, regardless of circumstance, and it is perfectly in line with the values instilled in Tennesseans.
This woman’s family failed her, the system has failed her, let us not as a community continue to fail her.
Jesse M. Fullington