Cyntoia Brown’s case back in the spotlight after Rihanna, Kim Kardashian West speak out

Wendy Tucker rubs Cyntoia Brown’s back during closing arguments in her trial in Nashville, Tenn. Brown received a life sentence for the murder of Johnny Mitchell Allen, Aug. 25, 2006.

When Cyntoia Brown was 16, she shot and killed a man who had allegedly hired her for sex. She was tried as an adult, convicted of first-degree murder and given a mandatory life sentence with the possibility of parole only after 51 years.

Now, her case is back in the spotlight thanks to social media posts by celebrities calling for her release. Advocates say they are hoping the renewed attention helps them argue that Brown should be eligible for parole sooner.

“We have been very, very surprised. The entire team, as well as Cyntoia, obviously had no idea that this was going to happen or why it happened, and she is very appreciative of the support from everyone,” Charles Bone, Brown’s attorney, told ABC News. “It is about her, but it’s also about the issues, and I think that’s what she feels strongly about. The issues of sex trafficking and sex slavery and juvenile justice all need a lot of attention throughout the world but especially here in Tennessee.”

Cyntoia Brown was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006, when she was 16.

Brown was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006 after she shot and killed Johnny Michael Allen, a 43-year-old man who had allegedly hired her for sex. She was forced into sex with other men by 24-year-old Garion “Cut Throat” McGlothen and had experienced physical and sexual abuse, according to an amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by her attorneys in 2015. McGlothen died in 2005.

Brown has already spent more than a decade behind bars, but Bone said the renewed attention comes as he is preparing to argue her case before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in early 2018.

“The court will be asked by our team to consider the constitutionality of the 51-year sentence for a child,” Bone said. “That’s been the issue we have felt for all these years needs to be considered by the courts. We haven’t been successful yet, but we are hopeful the 6th Circuit will consider our appeal on a favorable basis.”

Marsha Levick, the deputy director and chief counsel of the nonprofit Juvenile Law Center, said Brown is far from the only juvenile offender to have received a harsh sentence.

“My hope for cases like Cyntoia’s is to just literally try to change the paradigm,” Levick told ABC News. “When someone is a child, when someone has had the experiences Cyntoia had, our system needs to be able to reflect that and to recognize that. Otherwise, I think we lose our sense of humanity.”

In this Dec. 18, 2015 photo, inmate Cyntoia Brown of the Tennessee Prison for Women delivers a commencement address before receiving her associate degree from Lipscomb University.

Brown was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder in 2012, according to her attorney. At the time she shot Allen, “her exposure to alcohol poisoning in utero left her with a damaged brain which caused her to experience the world through the mind of a 10-year-old child,” according to the habeas corpus petition. She had also been abandoned and later kidnapped by her biological mother, suffered physical and sexual abuse and was forced “into a life of prostitution,” the writ of habeas corpus states. In 2009, the Supreme Court of Tennessee upheld her conviction.

But two U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 2010 and 2012 have changed how juveniles can be sentenced. In 2010, the court prohibited sentencing juveniles to life without the possibility of parole for non-homicide offenses. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that 8th amendment prohibits sentencing juvenile offenders to life in prison without the possibility of parole for any offense.

Those two decisions are among the reasons Bone believes Brown’s case should be reconsidered.

But Jeff Burks, who prosecuted Brown, told FOX17 in Nashville last week that he disagrees.

“There has been a group of people who have wanted to make Ms. Brown a victim and a celebrity since this happened,” Burks wrote to Fox 17 News. “She was not ‘trafficked’ nor was she a ‘sex slave.’ It’s not fair to the victim and his family that the other side of this case is so seldom heard.”

Burks did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Although she has been incarcerated since her arrest in August 2004, her case first received widespread attention after the release of a 2010 documentary, “Me Facing Life: The Cyntoia Brown Story.” Bone said he began representing her pro-bono the same year after seeing the documentary.

Her story is now back in the spotlight after singer Rihanna posted about Brown’s case on Instagram earlier this week and other celebrities followed suit, including Kim Kardashian West, rapper TI and basketball player LeBron James.

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Homeless South Beach Artist With No Arms Stabbed a Tourist, Police Say

Jonathan Crenshaw is a well-known homeless street artist in South Beach.

Anyone who’s ever wandered down Lincoln Road has probably seen Jonathan Crenshaw at work. A homeless man with no arms, Crenshaw has spent years in South Beach painting colorful canvases using his feet while tourists circle and gawk at the work.

But early yesterday morning, one of those tourists ended up bleeding on the ground after police say Crenshaw grabbed a pair of scissors with his feet and stabbed the man. Crenshaw told police the man, a Chicago resident, had punched him, but the victim told police he’d only asked for directions before the attack.

Victim of Norwalk assault gets 18 months for not retreating?

Jeffrey Sumpter, of Bridgeport, charged with first-degree assault and risk of injury to a minor in Saturday melee at Dunkin Donuts.

STAMFORD — A Bridgeport man who was assaulted by three juveniles while he was at work in Norwalk will have to spend 18 months in jail for stabbing one of the attackers.“I was defending myself,” Jeffrey Sumpter, 21, told Judge John Blawie on Monday morning at the Stamford courthouse when he was sentenced for stabbing one of the males in the leg last October. Blawie told Sumpter that he understood and believed his version of events, but he said he had to follow the letter of the law.Sumpter, dressed in a white prison jumpsuit with short sleeves, did not reply. His public defender Howard Ehring said unlike a state like Florida, which has a law allowing its residents to stand their ground, Connecticut law requires Sumpter to retreat from the beating he was given at the Dunkin’ Donuts where he worked. After being assaulted inside the coffee shop, Sumpter ran outside and stabbed one of the men.Ehring said the fact that a search of one of the men turned up shotgun shells, showed the four were looking to hurt Sumpter. No shotgun was found. Blawie said he hoped this would be Sumpter’s last “bid,” slang for prison sentence, because now that he has been convicted of felony first-degree assault, he will be treated more harshly by the criminal justice system going forward. Sumpter will have to spend three years following his jail sentence on probation, during which time he could be made to serve all or part of a three and one-half year prison sentence if he breaks the law.

Black teen misses bus, gets shot at after asking Whites for directions in Rochester Hills!

– A 14-year-old missed his bus and it nearly cost him his life.

Things took a dangerous turn when Brennan Walker went looking for help at a Rochester Hills home Thursday morning and was confronted by a man with a gun.

Walker was trying to walk the bus route to Rochester High School after he woke up late and missed his bus. His mom had taken his phone away, so he didn’t have that with him to get directions. So he knocked on a stranger’s door for help — and almost paid for it with his life.

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“I got to the house, and I knocked on the lady’s door. Then she started yelling at me and she was like, ‘Why are you trying to break into my house?’ I was trying to explain to her that I was trying to get directions to Rochester High. And she kept yelling at me. Then the guy came downstairs, and he grabbed the gun, I saw it and started to run. And that’s when I heard the gunshot,” he says.

Thankfully, the man missed. Brennan kept running, hid, then cried.

“My mom says that, black boys get shot because sometimes they don’t look their age, and I don’t look my age. I’m 14; but I don’t look 14. I’m kind of happy that, like, I didn’t become a statistic,” he says in retrospect.

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Oakland County Sheriff Deputies arrived soon after to the home on South Christian Hills Drive and took the woman’s husband into custody.

FOX 2: “Your son almost became a hashtag.”

“Exactly, and that’s exactly how I feel. Like, wow. Because you were trying to get to school,” says his mother, Lisa Wright. “I found out later the only reason [the man] missed is because he forgot to take the safety off.”

Lisa was at work when she got the call. She says her husband is deployed in Syria, so she was assuming she was getting a call about him until she realized they were calling about Brennan. She dropped everything and immediately went to the substation to be with her son.

That’s where investigators told her the family’s Ring doorbell recorded the encounter. Investigators watched the video with Brennan and his mom. She says the video confirmed their suspicions.

“One of the things that stands out, that probably angers me the most is, while I was watching the tape, you can hear the wife say, ‘Why did “these people” choose my house?'” she says, before taking a long pause. “Who are, “these people?” And that set me off. I didn’t want to believe it was what it appeared to look like. When I heard her say that, it was like, but it is [what it looks like].”

Authorities haven’t released that security video.

“We should not have to live in a society where we have to fend for ourselves. If I have a question, I should be able to turn to my village and knock on a door and ask a question. I shouldn’t be fearful of a child, let alone a skin tone,” she adds. “This is a decent neighborhood. If anything — why would I knock on your door to rob you?”

“It is just absurd that this happened,” says Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard. “I feel terrible for the young man; I feel terrible for the mom and the anxiety that they had to go through. We are going to ask for every charge permissible for this guy, who stepped up and fired a shotgun because someone knocked on his door.”

Right now that man is being held at the Oakland County Jail.

The retired Detroit firefighter was arraigned Friday afternoon. Jeffrey Zeigler has been charged with Assault with Intent to Murder; and Felony Firearms. He received a bond of $50,000, with conditions, and is due in court again April 24.

This is a developing story. Stay with FOX 2 for updates.

This situation is an eerie reminder of one that ended tragically in Dearborn Heights, Mich. back in 2013 and got national headlines, when a homeowner shot and killed a young woman in the middle of the night after she knocked on his door.

It’s not completely known why 19-year-old Renisha McBride knocked on Ted Wafer’s door that night, though she had crashed her car a few blocks away. She had been drinking and was disoriented when she went up to his house, but she was not armed.

Wafer testified he grabbed his shotgun opened the door and fired his weapon at McBride because he feared she was an intruder, and that he killed her in self-defense, but the jury did not agree.

He was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to at least 17 years in prison. Last year, he tried to get an appeal based on jury instructions but the Michigan Supreme Court denied that appealin March.

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