NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s office is being inundated with letters and pleas as he considers granting clemency to a woman convicted of murdering a man when she was a 16-year-old prostitute.
Several Democratic Tennessee lawmakers have held events calling for Haslam to offer mercy to the now 30-year-old Cyntoia Brown. Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna and other celebrities have supported Brown as she fights her life sentence for killing a man who had picked her up for sex. Her lawyers say she was a sex-trafficking victim afraid for her life.
Also tucked inside the calls for support is a 2017 letter from the lead detective who has urged the Republican governor against granting clemency to Brown.
“At the beginning of this investigation, I considered the possibility that Cyntoia Brown was justified in killing Johnny Allen,” wrote Charles Robinson — a homicide detective with the Metropolitan Nashville Police — in his seven-page letter to Haslam.
Brown was tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder in 2004. Police have said she shot Allen, 43, in the back of the head at close range after bringing a loaded gun to rob him.
“At the conclusion of this investigation my findings were that she was not justified in killing Mr. Allen and her only motivation for the murder was robbery,” Robinson said.
The seven-page document outlines details of Robinson’s investigation and includes testimony from witnesses who were with Brown the night of the murder.
One person mentioned in the letter, Richard Reed, told police Brown offered him money to drive back to Allen’s house so “she could get more items.” When he refused, Reed added Brown warned him not to talk about the incident or, “I’ll get you too.”
“Mr. Reed stated Cyntoia said I shot somebody in the head last night and blew his brains out,” Robinson wrote. “Mr. Reed stated Cyntoia said it was a fat lick (robbery). Mr. Reed stated Cyntoia also said she took $50,000, some guns and his truck.”
It is one of many letters Haslam’s office has received over the past few months as the case has received more and more national attention from celebrities and criminal justice advocates.
Her lawyers say she was a sex-trafficking victim afraid for her life and received an unfairly harsh sentence. They contend she lacked the mental state to be culpable in the 2004 slaying, impaired by her mother’s alcohol use while she was in the womb.
Haslam is currently reviewing Brown’s clemency request, but he has not said whether he’ll make a decision before leaving office mid-January.
Earlier this year, Tennessee’s Supreme Court clarified that Brown could be released from prison after serving at least 51 years.
That’s because while the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against life-without-parole sentences for juveniles, Tennessee has argued successfully in lower courts that Brown does have a possibility for parole.
Brown would be 68 after serving 51 years in prison.
This story has been corrected to show that the detective letter’s was sent in 2017, not last week.