Overcrowding Plagues Brazil's Prison System
Getty Images

Lawyers For Cyntoia Brown File Appeal To Have Her Life Sentence Overturned

Brown's attorneys believes that the 29-year-old sex trafficking survivor will die  before she is elligible for parole. 

Lawyers for Cyntoia Brown, a sex trafficking victim fighting to have her  life sentence overturned, believe that she is not likely to survive a potentially decades-long wait for her next parole hearing. Brown, now 29, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life at the age of 16.

In a petition filed Monday (Jan. 8), the attorneys argue that the sentence infringes on Brown's constitutional rights, and that she did not have the mental capacity at the time of the crime, to warrant such harsh sentencing.

"This was a seriously mentally impaired girl, subject to the immaturity and impulsiveness of all juveniles but to a much greater degree, who had been abandoned by her parents and whose only refuge was a pimp who sexually and physically abused her," the appeal states, according to The Tennessean.

Brown is currently serving time at the Tennessee Prison for Women. She was tried as an adult for the murder of Johnny Allen, a real estate agent who paid to have sex with the then teenager. Prior to her conviction, Brown was a runaway forced into prostitution. She survived being drugged and repeatedly sexually and physical assaulted by several men, including her boyfriend, who was also her pimp.

In the weeks before her fatal encounter with Allen, Brown had been raped several times. She maintains that she killed Allen in self-defense.

Brown's appeal goes on to cite Miller v. Alabama, a 2012 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences (without the possibility of parole) are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders. The argument was previously shot down because Brown didn't get life without parole.

However, the lawyers also note that Brown suffers from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and is likely to die before she is eligible for parole. Though Brown was adopted as a toddler, she contracted the disorder -- which can cause brain damage --  because her biological mother drank while she was pregnant.

All of Brown’s previous appeals have been denied. She will be eligible for parole after serving 51 years.

“The half-century wait before Cyntoia Brown has a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate her 'maturity and rehabilitation' is insufficient to satisfy the minimum constitutional requirement mandated by the Supreme Court,” the appeal reportedly states.

Brown's story became widely known after it went viral last year, catching the attention of Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, and more who called for her release. Kardashian reportedly even hired a legal team to work on getting her released.

Brown also inspired, Preston Shipp, the former prosecutor who helped keep her behind bars, to quit his job. Shipp, a onetime litigator for the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, taught a free class at the Tennessee Women’s Prison where he met and befriended Brown. He was surprised to later find out that he had prosecuted her case, and is now an advocate for criminal justice reform.

 

From the Web

More on Vibe

Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Disturbing Footage From Aftermath Of Ahmaud Arbery’s Murder Released

Travis McMichael , the man who shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery can be seen drenched in blood as he speaks with authorities in new body camera video obtained by the Glynn County police.

The footage, first reported by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution on Monday (Dec. 14), shows Travis McMichael recounting the deadly incident with authorities. His hands and forearms are covered in Arbery’s blood.

One police officer at the scene attempts to calm Travis McMichael before gently asking him if there’s anyone that he wants them to call on his behalf. She goes on to explain that he has to go to the police station as a formality, and asks if he sustained any injuries.

Travis McMichael paces around with his hands in his pockets, at times wiping blood of his arms and face, while blaming Arbery for his own murder. Arbery’s body lay on the ground and he was still breathing at one point in the video, according to USA Today.

While authorities investigate the shooting, Travis McMichael appears agitated and tells an officer, “I want it [the investigation] done right, because this doesn’t look good. I mean, I just shot a man. Last thing I’ve ever wanted to do in my life.”

Arbery, 25, was out for a jog before being chased in a pick-up truck, cornered and gunned down by Travis McMichael with his father, Greg McMichael, a retired investigator for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit D.A.’s office, by his side. Despite having no proof, father and son claim that they thought Arbery had been burglarizing the neighborhood.

Greg McMichael reportedly backed up his son’s account to police stating that his son “had no choice” but to kill Arbery. At least one  officer at the crime scene was familiar with Greg McMichael from his years in law enforcement and recent retirement.

In an additional recording, Greg McMichael says that he would have “shot him myself” and continues accusing Arbery of being the aggressor. “The guy turns and comes at him [Travis], and they start wrestling and Travis shoots him right in the damn chest,” he tells police. “The guy was trying to take the shotgun away from him [Travis].”

A third man, neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan filmed the incident on his cell phone and was later arrested for murder along with the McMichaels. Bryan has since questioned if they should have been following Arbery in the first place.

All three men remain jailed as they await trial on murder charges.

Click here to watch the body cam footage, but please be warned that the video is explicit.

Continue Reading
Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Bowie State And More HBCUs Receive Record-Breaking Donations From Billionaire

MacKenzie Scott is back at it! The billionaire venture philanthropist, novelist, and ex-wife of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, has donated tens of millions of dollars to several HBCUs in the last few days.

The week's isn't over yet, but so far, Scott has donated well over $100 million to historically Black colleges including Tougaloo College, which received $6 million on Wednesday (Dec. 16).

A day earlier, Scott gave a record $40 million each to Morgan State and Norfolk University, $25 million to Alcorn State University and Bowie State, $20 million to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore , and $15 million to Elizabeth City University.

Morgan State's $40 million gift is the largest single-party donation in the HBCU’s history, and the second-largest donation to a public Maryland university. 

“This monumental gift will change lives and shape futures,” Morgan State President David Wilson said in a statement. “I thank Ms. Scott for her due diligence and acknowledgement of the substantive value Morgan offers to so many throughout this nation and around the world, and entrusting that we will ensure the enduring impact of her generosity is truly transformational for many years to come.”

A majority of the donated funds will go to Morgan State’s newly established endowment fund. The remainder of the money will be used to continue the university’s efforts “essential to student success,” as well as advancing research and enhancing investments in other “mission-focused priorities and initiatives.”

Scott also donated millions to Howard University, Clark Atlanta and Delaware State University.

Her latest HBCU donation spree is a small portion of the $4 billion that she has given away over the last four months. The multi-billion dollar charitable windfall has been dispersed to 384 organizations and educational institutions in all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.

And she’s still not done.

“Though I’m far from completing my pledge, this year of giving began with exposure to leaders from historically marginalized groups fighting inequities, and ended with exposure to thousands of organizations working to alleviate suffering for those hardest hit by the pandemic,” Scott wrote in a post on Medium.com. “Witnessing the determination, creativity, and compassion of people in a crisis has been inspiring.”

Continue Reading
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Father And Son Who Brutally Murdered Ahmaud Arbery Denied Bail

Travis and Gregory McMichael, the father-son duo charged for the brutal murder of Ahmaud Arbery, were denied bail and must remain behind bars, a judge ruled on Friday (Nov. 13). Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, urged the judge to keep Travis, 34, and Gregory, 64, in custody.

“These men are proud of what they've done,” she said according to NBC News. “In their selfish minds, they think they're good guys.”

William “Roddie” Bryan, a neighbor to the McMichales', was denied bail over the summer.

Bryan recorded Arbery’s murder. All three men have been indicted on suspicion of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

Investigators found racist text messages and social media posts from Travis McMichael,  Cobb County prosecutors noted in court on Thursday. Bryan also told authorities that he heard Travis use the n-word after fatally shooting Arbery.

Arbery, 25, was out for a jog in late February when the men, approached, cornered, and shot him to death. The incident was recorded on Bryan’s cell phone.

Continue Reading

Top Stories