Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has granted full clemency to Cyntoia Brown, an alleged sex trafficking victim serving a life sentence for the 2004 murder of a man who picked her up and took her to his home.
After serving 15 years in prison, Brown will be released on August 7 and will remain on parole for 10 years, Haslam announced Monday, calling it a "tragic and complex case."
Brown, whose case drew national attention and support from celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian, was 16 years old when she committed the crime.
The life sentence meant she would not have been eligible for parole until she was in her 60s, which Haslam said was "too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life."
"Transformation should be accompanied by hope," Haslam said.
In 2006, Brown was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery of Johnny Allen, a 43-year-old Nashville real estate agent. Her advocates said she was forced into prostitution by her abusive boyfriend.
Brown's story spread widely last fall amid the #MeToo movement and spurred the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown. Kardashian highlighted the case to President Trump in a meeting last May over prison reform.
In a statement through her lawyers Monday, Brown thanked the governor for his "act of mercy in giving me a second chance."
"With God's help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people," Brown said. "My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been."
HOW CYNTOIA ENDED UP BEHIND BARS
In August 2004, Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen was found naked in his home with a gunshot wound to the back of his head.
Cyntoia, who was then just 16, told police the man had picked her up at a Sonic Drive-in.
According to court documents, Cyntoia told investigators that Mr Allen had showed her his collection of guns.
She said she was a sex worker who had only shot him in self-defence, believing he was reaching for a gun under his bed with the intention of killing her.
She also said she only went with him on the orders of her abusive boyfriend. In her appeal, she said she only took the victim's money because she was afraid of what might happen to her if she went back to her abusive partner empty-handed.
However prosecutors argued that she killed him intentionally to rob him.
Prosecutors in turn argued that she had gone with Mr Allen with the intention of robbing him.
In 2006, Cyntoia was convicted of first-degree murder and robbery, and was later sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Even though she was a juvenile when sentenced, she was tried as an adult.
Cyntoia's defence lawyers also argued that she was born with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, as a result of her mother Georgina Mitchell drinking during pregnancy.
In 2011, Cyntoia's story gained global traction following the release of the PBS documentary Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story, which explored her history and future.
The documentary aimed to challenge the adult criminal justice system as a venue for punishing minors.
The year after its release, Cyntoia argued that her sentence was unconstitutional, citing a 2012 ruling that declared a life sentence without parole for minors was not constitutional.
The Tennessee Supreme Court issued a statement in response saying: "Under state law, a life sentence is a determinate sentence of 60 years. However, the 60-year sentence can be reduced by up to 15 per cent, or nine years, by earning various sentence credits."
- additional reporting news.com.au