Kim Kardashian Makes Good On A Promise She Made To A Sex Trafficking Victim

At 16 years old, Cyntoia Brown was convicted of first-degree murder.

Cyntoia Brown was only 16 when she was sentenced to life in prison. Her crime? Killing a man who had allegedly hired her for sex. Brown was convicted of first-degree murder and told she would only be eligible for parole after 51 years. Her conviction was controversial not just because of her age, but also because of the circumstances surrounding the murder: she claimed she had been sexually abused and trafficked before defending herself.


Although Brown was convicted 11 years ago, her case was thrust back into the spotlight this week when it resurfaced on social media and several celebrities began making social media posts with the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown. Her attorney told ABC News they were "appreciative" of the support. 

First, it was Rihanna.

Not long after, Kim Kardashian West weighed in on Twitter, saying that she planned to call her attorneys and see what could be done.

Both posts have gained tremendous traction online, and have reinvigorated calls for Brown to be eligible for parole. Days later, Kardashian made good on her promise, hiring high-profile lawyer Shane Holley to help both Brown and another incarcerated woman facing a life sentence: Alice Johnson, a 62-year-old grandmother serving time for a nonviolent drug conviction.

The Associated Press reported in 2012 that Brown was a teenage runaway who had been picked up by a 24-year-old man nicknamed Cut-throat. Brown claims that Cut-throat abused her physically, sexually, and forced her to prostitute herself in order to provide income for both of them — making her a victim, not a villain.

Others, though, have said that the case is more complex than civil rights advocates are letting on. Per Newsweek, prosecutors argued that the man may have been asleep when she shot him, and that she told police officers investigating the crime that she was not a prostitute. The prosecutors convinced a jury to convict Brown by pointing to her criminal juvenile record and history of drug use. 

Although her age and her story compelled hundreds of thousands to sign a MoveOn petition to free her, civil rights advocates have focused less on the details of Brown's case and more on the practice of extending harsh sentences to minors. The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that mandatory life sentences violated the constitution's Eighth Amendment, prohibiting "cruel and unusual punishment," which gives Brown's lawyers hope that a new trial could lead to a reduced sentence. 

Marsha Levick, the deputy director and chief counsel of Juvenile Law Center, focused on that when speaking with ABC News.

"My hope for cases like Cyntoia's is to just literally try to change the paradigm," Levick told ABC News. "When someone is a child, when someone has had the experiences Cyntoia had, our system needs to be able to reflect that and to recognize that. Otherwise, I think we lose our sense of humanity."

Cover image via Shutterstock.


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