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Governor grants clemency to 11; does not include Cyntoia Brown

Lawmakers, faith leaders urge gov. to pardon Brown
Posted: 5:43 PM, Dec 20, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-20 18:58:51-05
Cyntoia Brown Has Clemency Hearing On Wednesday

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Governor Haslam granted clemency to eleven people, but Cyntoia Brown is not one of them. The list was released the same day a group of lawmakers and faith leaders held a press conference, encouraging Haslam to grant her clemency.

The governor's office says he's still considering all additional requests at this time.

Brown was convicted in 2006 of first degree murder, felony murder, and aggravated robbery in the killing of Antioch realtor Johnny Allen. At the time of the crime, Brown was sixteen years old, and said Allen bought her for sex. A judge sentenced her to life in prison.

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently clarified that Brown must serve at least 51 years in prison before she's eligible for release. She will be 69 years old.

More than a decade after sentencing, Brown's case caught the attention of A-list celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West who began advocating for mercy. Her story spread on social media using the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown.

Brown says she was forced into prostitution after a difficult childhood. At her trial, she said her victim, Johnny Mitchell Allen, solicited her for sex and drove her to his house.

There, Brown saw a gun cabinet in Allen's room, she said during her trial. She resisted him until he appeared to reach under the bed, at which point she believed he was going to kill her. Brown took a gun out of her purse and shot Allen, killing him. Prosecutors say Brown shot Allen in the back of the head while he was sleeping then stole his money, vehicle, and gun.

Brown was tried as an adult.

In a clemency hearing in May, the Tennessee Board of Parole was split on its recommendation to Gov. Bill Haslam. Two of the six member voted to grant clemency, two to deny it, and two to make her eligible for parole after 25 years. Prosecutors at that hearing said Brown killed Allen to rob him, not to defend herself.

During Thursday's press conference, Senate-elect Brenda Gilmore said "Cyntoia has been in prison already for 15 years. She has shown her remorse. She's gotten her education, her GED and an associates degree from Lipscomb, as I understand it; so we're asking Governor Haslam not to kick this can down the road but for him to make this decision and to make it before January 19."

Pardons were issued to the following individuals:

  • Jack Farris Purkey, of Hawkins County, for his 1983 convictions for embezzlement and failure to receipt. Since his convictions, Purkey obtained a law degree and master of library science degree and subsequently worked as a librarian for Kennesaw State University and the Union County Board of Education. Purkey has been commended by many community leaders for his contributions to the community. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a pardon in favor of Purkey.
  • Amir Paydar, of Florida, for his 2002 convictions for DUI and minor in possession and transporting beer in Shelby County while he was an 18-year-old college student. Paydar is now a board-certified radiologist, after having graduated with highest honors from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and completing a neuroradiology fellowship at New York University. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a pardon in favor of Paydar.
  • Willie Stewart, Jr., of Arizona, for his 2004 conviction for felony possession of cocaine under 0.5 grams in Rutherford County. Stewart has been employed for a number of years by the City of Phoenix as an operations and maintenance technician in its water department, having earned an associate degree and other certifications in applied science. He also serves as a minister at a Phoenix-area Christian center. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a pardon in favor of Stewart.
  • Michael Martin Lacey, of Florida, for his 1996 conviction for possession of a Schedule I controlled substance with intent to deliver in Rutherford County. Lacey has been employed in Florida in the IT sector for approximately 20 years, where he has excelled and received numerous technical certifications. Currently, he serves as the IT manager for a corporation in Tampa.
  • Phyllis Cross, of Nashville, for her 1998 convictions for forgery and 2003 conviction for criminal impersonation in Davidson County. Cross has obtained associate and bachelor degrees in psychology and now works with others to overcome substance abuse issues and serves as a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist through the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
  • Jeffrey Hall Connell, of Knoxville, for his 1989 convictions for DUI and aggravated assault and separate 1989 convictions for marijuana possession and public drunkenness in Knox County. Connell, a Vietnam veteran, has been employed in maintenance and handyman roles in Knoxville for many years and is active in his church. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a pardon in favor of Connell.
  • Richard Knott, of Oklahoma, for his 1983 convictions for sale of marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to sell in Knox County. Knott is a veteran, currently works as a shop superintendent for a steel company after working in the metal fabrication industry for decades, is active in his church, and is involved with an organization that supports child abuse victims. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a pardon in favor of Knott.

Commutations were issued to the following individuals:

  • Richard Knott, of Oklahoma, for his 1983 convictions for sale of marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to sell in Knox County. Knott is a veteran, currently works as a shop superintendent for a steel company after working in the metal fabrication industry for decades, is active in his church, and is involved with an organization that supports child abuse victims. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a pardon in favor of Knott.
  • Janet Edmond Kostyal, of South Carolina, received a commutation ending her parole supervision, which has been ongoing since 1985, when her sentence of life imprisonment for a 1974 murder in Hamilton County was commuted to parole supervision by Gov. Lamar Alexander. Kostyal has complied with all conditions of her parole supervision and led a positive life during the last three decades. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a commutation in favor of Kostyal.
  • Nicky J. Randolph, of Missouri, received a commutation ending his parole supervision, which has been ongoing since 2000, when his sentence of life imprisonment for a 1985 murder as a juvenile in Roane County was commuted to parole supervision by Gov. Don Sundquist. Randolph now owns an IT business and nonprofit ministry. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a commutation in favor of Randolph.
  • Marvin Kitchen received a commutation to restore eligibility for parole consideration by the Board of Parole for his 1973 life imprisonment sentence resulting from his convictions of armed robbery in Knox County, as his sentence effectively became life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in 1993 following additional convictions. In recent years, Kitchen has made progress in terms of rehabilitation. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a commutation in favor of Kitchen.
  • Keith Jackson received a commutation reducing the mandatory minimum sentence he has to serve for possession of cocaine with intent to sell in a drug free zone in Davidson County from 25 years to 17 years, so that he is immediately eligible for parole consideration by the Board of Parole. This offense occurred approximately 940 feet from a school and had no connection with the school but nevertheless took place within the statutory 1,000-foot-threshold, resulting in an enhanced sentence of 36 years of incarceration. Jackson has a record of good conduct and self-improvement in prison. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a commutation in favor of Jackson.

Haslam has previously granted one commutation, eight pardons, and one exoneration. The governor continues to review and consider additional clemency requests.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals heard Cyntoia's Brown case in June, where her legal team argued Brown suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and didn't have the mental capacity to commit murder. The court has not yet issued a decision on the case.