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Celebrities are Rallying to Free Teenage Killer Cyntoia Brown from a Life Sentence

3 minute read
Updated: | Originally published: ;

Cyntoia Brown landed a life sentence for murder when she was just 16-years-old. More than a decade later, she’s gained some A-list defenders: Celebrities Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna and Cara Delevigne are on a campaign to correct what they see as a miscarriage of justice, and hope to free the teenage killer.

In 2004, Brown was found guilty of the murder of Johnny Allen, a 43-year-old who had picked her up for sex, the BBC reports.

During her trial, the teen said she was forced into sex work by her boyfriend, a pimp who went by the name “Kutthroat” and who serially raped and physically abused her, the BBC says.

The john who preyed on Brown that fateful night was a Nashville estate agent. He took her home, showed her his massive gun collection, and headed to the bedroom.

“He grabbed me in-between my legs — he just grabbed it real hard,” Brown told the court.

Brown said she panicked when Allen turned to get something from under the bed. Thinking she was about to die, she took out the .40-calibre handgun Kutthroat had given her and shot Allen in the head, the BBC reports.

She was tried as an adult. And since she had taken a wallet and guns from the house, the prosecutors argued the attack was premeditated. Her plea of self-defense did not hold water with the jury who found her guilty of murder and aggravated robbery.

Brown’s lawyer maintains the teenager was a victim of sex-trafficking, and has appealed the case on the grounds of ineffective initial counsel and the Eight Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment, the New York Times reports.

Brown’s advocates told the Times that she has been a model inmate, earning a G.E.D. and an associate degree over her thirteen years behind bars. Brown, now 28, is also reportedly aiming for a bachelor of arts by next year.

In the court of social media, Brown’s case for early release has already won over an onslaught of celebrity support. The case went viral after Rihanna posted about it on Instagram. “Imagine at the age of 16 being sex-trafficked,” she wrote.

The hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown has also been picking up momentum on Twitter.

“The system has failed,” Kim Kardashian West tweeted. “It’s heart breaking to see a young girl sex trafficked then when she has the courage to fight back is jailed for life!”

“I’ve called my attorneys yesterday to see what can be done to fix this,” she added.

Model and actress Cara Delevigne called the case “completely insane”.

Reverend Al Sharpton also weighed in, calling it “a grave case of injustice”.

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Write to Laignee Barron at Laignee.Barron@time.com