Cyntoia Brown, serving life for murder, asks Tennessee parole board for clemency: A look at her case

Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Fox News •

“Cyntoia’s sentence is wholly disproportionate for a 16-year-old girl, and therefore unconstitutional,” Marsha Levick, deputy director and chief counsel for the Juvenile Law Center, argued in a statement.

In 2012, after Brown had been sentenced, the Supreme Court ruled that states could not impose mandatory life in prison without parole sentences for juveniles convicted of murder. Brown’s sentence gives her an opportunity for parole -- but only after 51 years. Levick said that sentence leaves Brown “to die in prison.”

“Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana, most states have rolled back the harsh sentencing practices imposed on youth, offering both opportunities for resentencing and the opportunity for parole,” Riya Saha Shah, senior supervising attorney at the Juvenile Law Center, said. “This Tennessee sentencing scheme is unduly harsh, foreclosing both any realistic opportunity for parole or any individualized consideration.”

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.

Riya leads the organization’s work on juvenile record confidentiality and expungement. She has written extensively on collateral consequences, expungement, and the right to counsel, and was instrumental in Pennsylvania’s successful challenge to the imposition of harsh registration laws for youth charged with sexual offenses.