All About Perspective: Seeing A New Side To The Cyntoia Brown Case

Ciera Mcclenton

CieraMugCyntoia Brown, as of today a 31 year-old black woman, became a victim of sex trafficking at the age of 16, a nightmare that has followed her for over a decade. When she was only 16, she killed and robbed Johnny Allen, a man she accused of rape.
In October of 2006 Cyntoia was sentenced to spend her life behind bars. The case made a re-emergence in the past few years, the first in 2011 when a documentary was released titled “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story.”
Again Brown’s case caught media attention in 2017 when celebrities such as Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Drake and LeBron James took to media platforms like Twitter to bring attention to Brown. The media has presented the case as another instance of systematic racism, many saying Brown’s situation has once again brought light to the inequalities in our justice and prison systems. Personally, I followed this line of thinking, believing that this case, of black people being failed by our justice system.
I believe there is no reason why a child as young as Brown should’ve been given a life sentence. I remember being taught about her case in my Law I class last year and then seeing it all over the news. It seemed that the only reason why Cyntoia mattered, why people paid attention to her, was because someone on Twitter decided to bring it to light. Reform shouldn’t have to be forced by social media coverage and celebrities. My issue is first that she was convicted of the crime in the first place and secondly that the only reason the case received the attention it did was from Twitter especially.
In the original case the prosecution presented a few facts that contributed to Brown being found guilty. Photos of the crime scene, which showed Allen naked and laying on his stomach, shot in the back of the head, were brought forth as major pieces of evidence The fact that he was sleeping when he was shot poked holes in Brown’s claim of self-defense, and the prosecution argued that the real intent in the situation was robbery considering Brown took Allen’s wallet, firearms, and truck.
On January 7, 2019 Cyntoia was granted clemency by Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee. Clemency is an act of showing forgiveness or mercy on behalf of the state, and in Brown’s case she was granted parole. I also strongly believed the only reason she was granted clemency was because of the push on social media.
I decided to go back and talk to the person who first introduced me to the case, Loy Norrix social studies teacher Niambi Pringle. I knew that talking with Pringle would give me a fresh perspective on the situation, a chance to step back and broaden my understanding.
The Conversation:
Do you believe Cyntoia Brown was failed by the justice system?
“I believe that the justice system is set up to look at the evidence and look at the facts and I think that the prosecution did what it was supposed to do, and I believe the evidence the prosecution set forth was valid.” However she added,” I think society set her up to be in the system. I think the first person that failed her was her mother,” said Pringle.
Do you believe this case deals with the issue of race?
“I don’t believe it’s an issue of race. I believe it’s an issue of lifestyle. I think the issue is this was a young girl that was out on the streets…living an adult life…hanging out with adult people, and I think she got caught up. I don’t believe it was ‘Let’s go get this black girl,’ said Pringle.
How do you think the outcome would’ve changed if Cyntoia was white? At this point I shared with her my own opinion, I believed that if a white girl had killed a man in self-defense, I don’t think she would’ve gotten the same treatment.
Pringle then responded
You can’t use that until you have researched that no white woman her age killed a John and didn’t go to jail. You can’t say that if you have no evidence of the other side. People tend to do that, see a black girl or boy in the media and assume it happened to them because they’re black. I do believe things happen because people are black, I don’t think everything that happens to a black person is because they’re black,” said Pringle.
Finally I asked if she felt protected by our justice system.
“No, not now. I felt more protected as a juvenile than I do as an adult overall. The type of cops are different: they’re scary. They have no community skills. When doing community policing, you should have a relationship with your community. I asked my dad the same question because he’s a cop. He said police now are trigger-happy and come with deep past issues and become a cop to make themselves feel better. When I was younger I felt completely protected, because there was a different type of cop,” said Pringle.
What’s to be learned from this case? Was this really a issue of race like it’s being presented as?
This case still represents many issues for me. The issue of how our youth are sometimes shown no mercy and treated like adults when sentenced. This issue of how certain races are targeted and how the media covers it all.  Being a young black girl myself, I felt drawn to Brown, as I feel many other people did without fully knowing about the full complexity of the case.
It’s a wake-up call. Before standing behind something, a case, a campaign, or a movement, look into it more and look into the different perspectives and know what you’re talking about.
I still support Brown, and I still believe she deserved the clemency she was granted, but now I feel like I’m supporting her for the right reasons.
 
Cyntoia Brown, as of today a 31 year-old black woman, became a victim of sex trafficking at the age of 16, a nightmare that has followed her for over a decade. When she was only 16, she killed and robbed Johnny Allen, a man she accused of rape.
In October of 2006 Cyntoia was sentenced to spend her life behind bars. The case made a re-emergence in the past few years, the first in 2011 when a documentary was released titled “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story.”
Again Brown’s case caught media attention in 2017 when celebrities such as Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Drake and LeBron James took to media platforms like Twitter to bring attention to Brown. The media has presented the case as another instance of systematic racism, many saying Brown’s situation has once again brought light to the inequalities in our justice and prison systems. Personally, I followed this line of thinking, believing that this case, of black people being failed by our justice system.
I believe there is no reason why a child as young as Brown should’ve been given a life sentence. I remember being taught about her case in my Law I class last year and then seeing it all over the news. It seemed that the only reason why Cyntoia mattered, why people paid attention to her, was because someone on Twitter decided to bring it to light. Reform shouldn’t have to be forced by social media coverage and celebrities. My issue is first that she was convicted of the crime in the first place and secondly that the only reason the case received the attention it did was from Twitter especially.
In the original case the prosecution presented a few facts that contributed to Brown being found guilty. Photos of the crime scene, which showed Allen naked and laying on his stomach, shot in the back of the head, were brought forth as major pieces of evidence The fact that he was sleeping when he was shot poked holes in Brown’s claim of self-defense, and the prosecution argued that the real intent in the situation was robbery considering Brown took Allen’s wallet, firearms, and truck.
On January 7, 2019 Cyntoia was granted clemency by Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee. Clemency is an act of showing forgiveness or mercy on behalf of the state, and in Brown’s case she was granted parole. I also strongly believed the only reason she was granted clemency was because of the push on social media.
I decided to go back and talk to the person who first introduced me to the case, Loy Norrix social studies teacher Niambi Pringle. I knew that talking with Pringle would give me a fresh perspective on the situation, a chance to step back and broaden my understanding.
The Conversation:
Do you believe Cyntoia Brown was failed by the justice system?
“I believe that the justice system is set up to look at the evidence and look at the facts and I think that the prosecution did what it was supposed to do, and I believe the evidence the prosecution set forth was valid.” However she added,” I think society set her up to be in the system. I think the first person that failed her was her mother,” said Pringle.
Do you believe this case deals with the issue of race?
“I don’t believe it’s an issue of race. I believe it’s an issue of lifestyle. I think the issue is this was a young girl that was out on the streets…living an adult life…hanging out with adult people, and I think she got caught up. I don’t believe it was ‘Let’s go get this black girl,’ said Pringle.
How do you think the outcome would’ve changed if Cyntoia was white? At this point I shared with her my own opinion, I believed that if a white girl had killed a man in self-defense, I don’t think she would’ve gotten the same treatment.
Pringle then responded
You can’t use that until you have researched that no white woman her age killed a John and didn’t go to jail. You can’t say that if you have no evidence of the other side. People tend to do that, see a black girl or boy in the media and assume it happened to them because they’re black. I do believe things happen because people are black, I don’t think everything that happens to a black person is because they’re black,” said Pringle.
Finally I asked if she felt protected by our justice system.
“No, not now. I felt more protected as a juvenile than I do as an adult overall. The type of cops are different: they’re scary. They have no community skills. When doing community policing, you should have a relationship with your community. I asked my dad the same question because he’s a cop. He said police now are trigger-happy and come with deep past issues and become a cop to make themselves feel better. When I was younger I felt completely protected, because there was a different type of cop,” said Pringle.
What’s to be learned from this case? Was this really a issue of race like it’s being presented as?
This case still represents many issues for me. The issue of how our youth are sometimes shown no mercy and treated like adults when sentenced. This issue of how certain races are targeted and how the media covers it all.  Being a young black girl myself, I felt drawn to Brown, as I feel many other people did without fully knowing about the full complexity of the case.
It’s a wake-up call. Before standing behind something, a case, a campaign, or a movement, look into it more and look into the different perspectives and know what you’re talking about.
I still support Brown, and I still believe she deserved the clemency she was granted, but now I feel like I’m supporting her for the right reasons.