Following Cyntoia Brown clemency, new bill focuses on self-defense for child sex victims

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    NASHVILLE, Tenn.--In the wake of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam granting clemency for Cyntoia Brown, a new bill has been introduced in the legislature which could prevent future circumstances like Brown's.

    Cyntoia Brown was granted clemency from her life sentence for killing a man in 2004. Advocates for Brown say the then 16-year-old had been a victim of sex trafficking when she killed the man who had purchased her for sex.

    Following an upswell of support nationally, Governor Haslam granted clemency for Brown on January 7th, 15 years into her life sentence.

    Just one day later, HB 0017 was introduced in the Tennessee legislature with it's Senate version SB0024 introduced the following day.

    Sponsored by Senator Brenda Gilmore and Rep. London Lamar, the bill would establish a presumption that any minor who is a victim of a sex crime can use force to defend themselves.

    Sen. Gilmore says the bill was molded after the Castle Law which gives homeowners the right to protect their property with the use of deadly force in self-defense should they feel they are in danger.

    In this case, any minor who is the victim of a sexual offense or sex trafficked into prostitution would have the right to defend themselves as necessary. "We say children can't do many adult things and we don't punish them as adults for a variety of crimes but when they defend themselves we treat them like adults," Gilmore says.

    Gilmore says Cyntoia Brown's case and timing did play a role in her support of the bill. "Cyntoia heightened awareness we need to do more for our children who are victims," Gilmore said.

    The veteran lawmaker also thinks the timing is right for a bill like this one. "Governor-elect Bill Lee did say he wants to see criminal justice reform, so I'm hopeful this is the right time."

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