Cyntoia Brown Clemency Highlights Wider Push For Reforms

Emma Cueto, Law 360 •

Marsha Levick, an attorney with Juvenile Law Center, which submitted a brief on Brown’s behalf in her federal appellate case, told Law360 that she was “thrilled” to hear about the commutation and considered it a “great outcome” for Brown — but noted that many others like Brown are still behind bars.

“We celebrate her release but we certainly lament that there are thousands of individuals across the country who received very lengthy sentences as children,” she said. “They may be every bit as much an appropriate candidate for release.”

Over the past 15 years, the Supreme Court has put new protections in place for juvenile offenders, ruling that it was unconstitutional to execute people for crimes committed while under the age of 18 or to sentence such offenders to life without parole. However, in many states, juveniles tried as adults still can and do receive lengthy sentences, Levick said.

It’s something that Juvenile Law Center is hoping to change, along with the tendency to try juvenile offenders as adults. Looking at Brown’s case, Levick said, she sees trends that affect many other teenage offenders.

About the Expert

Marsha Levick co-founded Juvenile Law Center in 1975. Throughout her legal career, Levick has been an advocate for children’s and women's rights and is a nationally recognized expert in juvenile law.

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Judge Steven Teske and Naomi Smoot Evans, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange •