16-year-old Cyntoia Brown was pushed in to sex trafficking as a young teenager but is now in prison for murder
On August 6, 2004, Cyntoia was picked for sex by 43-year-old Johnny Allen
While at Allen’s house, Cyntoia became fearful for her life which led to her shooting and killing Allen
Cyntoia was convicted of murder and sentenced to 51 years in jail
In August of 2004, 16-year-old Cyntoia Brown is prostituting and picked up by 43-year-old Johnny Allen and asked, “Are you up for some action?” Just hours later, Allen was dead, and Cyntoia had robbed his house and stolen his car. The teenager only stopped to call 911 to report the homicide.
The night Cyntoia met Allen may have changed her life forever, but it is far from when her story began. Cyntoia’s mother was a teenage alcoholic and drug user spiraling out of control while she was pregnant.
The case had attention brought to it after a meme that loosely told Cyntoia’s story went viral on social media. The meme even grabbed the attention of a handful of celebrities.
Three Generations Of Abuse
Aside from issues with substances, Cyntoia was the third generation of women in her family to have rape and violence against women a part of her everyday life. Cyntoia’s grandmother was raped, and Cyntoia herself was a product of rape.
Cyntoia was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, which is known to affect rational decision-making and impulse behavior. Adding to problems with impulse behavior, Cyntoia’s mother claims she drank at least a fifth of liquor every day that she was pregnant.
Some of Cyntoia’s most detrimental developmental childhood years were spent with a mother who abused substances and did not want or love her. Cyntoia managed to do somewhat better in an adoptive home, but the damage that her mother did had already taken hold of the young girl.
By the time Cyntoia was a young teen, she had begun showing strong anti-authoritarian behavior. She did not know how to have a healthy relationship at home, which inevitably led to her becoming a runaway.
As Cyntoia’s drug habits quickly took control, the teenage girl found herself in social circles with older men who were involved with drugs, many of which wanted her to prostitute for them. Beginning as a young teenager, Cyntoia found herself going from one abusive situation to the next.
At an age where her brain was still trying to develop the concept of a healthy relationship, Cyntoia was bouncing from one abusive man to the next. She would end up dating a pimp by the name of Kutthroat, the same man she was with when she killed Allen.
On August 6, 2004, Cyntoia met Allen, a real estate agent, at a restaurant parking lot in Nashville. After negotiating out a fee, Cyntoia agreed to go back to Allen’s house.
When they arrived at Allen’s house, he is nice to her. She is allowed to explore his house and feeds her. However, Allen soon began bragging about his wealth and guns. He began showing her guns in an attempt to impress Cyntoia.
As this continues, Cyntoia grows increasingly unnerved. Thoughts begin rushing through her head that Allen has free reign to do as he pleases. At this moment, nobody even knows where Cyntoia is.
The moment that would change Cyntoia’s life forever, Allen reaches down beside the bed. Cyntoia instinctively feels he is grabbing for a gun to kill her. The confused teen reaches into her purse and pulls a gun she was carrying and shoots Allen. Allen dies instantly.
After Allen’s death, a debate began. Should Cyntoia be charged to the full extent of the law given her mental state, and if so, should she be charged as a juvenile or an adult?
Cyntoia was assessed by forensic psychiatrist William Bennett based at Vanderbilt University. Bennett found Cyntoia had a very troubled history and a distraught mind, but she was competent to stand trial. The decision was made that Cyntoia would be tried as an adult.
Her defense would claim that her actions were that of self-defense. She was in Allen’s house and feared for her life as he continued to show her his gun collection. At one point, she felt threatened enough by Allen to draw her gun and shoot and kill him.
The prosecution claimed that was not the case. Instead, Allen was murdered in cold blood by Cyntoia as his back was turned. Robbing the house and stealing his car only added to the prosecution’s case.
Cyntoia’s trial went on for five days, with jury deliberation lasting only six hours. The jury found her guilty of murder. She was sentenced to 51 years in prison with eligibility for parole when she turns 67-years-old.
Me Facing Life
For seven years, Dan Birman filmed Cyntoia for a documentary titled, “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story.” Birman’s film helped changed Tennessee law. Now, anybody 18 or under cannot be charged with prostitution. Unfortunately, this law does not help Cyntoia’s situation one bit.
Many feel that Cyntoia should not be in jail, as she was a victim of human trafficking and at an age where she was not capable of realizing the repercussions for the decision she made in Allen’s house.