Murder to Mercy: What you didn't see in the Netflix documentary about Cyntoia Brown
As Cyntoia Brown's story unravels in Netflix's latest crime documentary Murder to Mercy (streaming now), there's still much to learn about her life.
While Brown, who was convicted of first-degree murder at the age of 16, was serving her life sentence in Tennessee, she wrote Free Cyntoia: My Search For Redemption in the American Prison System, a book detailing the events of her life that was released by Atria Books in 2019. The autobiography offers insight into the intricacies that led to the events on August 6, 2004, the night she killed Johnny Allen, 43, who picked up the teenager in his truck with the intention of having sex with her for $150. Brown, who was being trafficked by a man she considered her boyfriend at the time, claimed she shot Allen in self-defense.
Murder to Mercy takes viewers through Brown's court case, where she was tried as an adult even though she was under 18. The book gets into her life behind bars and her decision to follow sage advice from her attorney that she should get involved with the right people and fill up her days studying and avoiding drugs and fights.
While incarcerated, Brown earned a G.E.D., an associate's degree in Liberal Arts, and a bachelor's degree in Professional Studies in Organization Leadership — the latter two from Lipscomb University, both with a 4.0 G.P.A. She also used her time to help other young women suffering a similar fate, which inspired her to create the advocacy program G.L.I.T.T.E.R., which stands for Grassroots Learning Initiative on Teen Trafficking, Exploitation, and Rape.
Murder to Mercy documentarian Daniel Birman released a previous documentary through PBS titled Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story that helped expose her case to a wider audience. So wide, in fact, that it captured the attention of celebrities including T.I., Rihanna, and Kim Kardashian, who helped spark the #FreeCynoia movement.
After multiple appeals were denied, Brown's only hope for freedom was for then-Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam to grant her clemency. It was a lengthy process but well worth it, her sentence was commuted and she was released on August 7, 2019, with ten years probation plus time served (15 years).
Today, Brown is married and living in Tennessee where she continues to advocate on behalf of trafficking victims like Chrystul Kizer, who at 17 was charged with first-degree homicide and arson in the death of her 33-year-old alleged rapist. She also travels the country to discuss prison reform and the problems with the criminal justice system.
In February, she testified in front of the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee in support of state Senator Raumesh Akbari's bill SB 69 that hopes to lessen the time a prisoner convicted of first-degree murder has to wait before becoming eligible for parole.
Earlier the same month, she visited with trafficking victims in Washington, D.C., in collaboration with local organization Fair Girls.
Brown shared in a recently deleted Twitter post that she's in the process of telling her story her own way.
Brown's 2019 book will be available to purchase in paperback format on May 5.
- The Innocence Files attorneys talk fighting wrongful convictions and systemic racism
- Jay-Z and Meek Mill donate more than 100,000 masks to prisons to prevent coronavirus spread
- Geno McDermott, director of Aaron Hernandez documentary Killer Inside, answers burning questions
- The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez director explains why the documentary had to be a difficult watch
- Corey Feldman looks to name names, and move forward, with sexual abuse documentary (My) Truth