Cyntoia Brown Long’s story gained national attention and will hopefully have ripple effects when it comes to changing outcomes for trafficking victims for generations. But perhaps for the first time since her case gained notoriety, we are getting a behind-the-scenes look into the unfolding of Brown Long's case in a new Netflix trailer for the forthcoming documentary, Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown story.
According to the trailer, the story behind Brown Long's journey and her experience in the U.S. incarceration system was 16 years in the making. The documentary follows Brown Long from the time of her initial trial in 2006 through her release from prison, while also telling her life story from childhood — which included running away from home and suffering physical and sexual abuse. “She has made the most amazing transformation,” the trailer says. “She’s the perfect person to be considered for clemency.”
Brown was just 16 years old in 2004, when she shot and killed 43-year-old Johnny Allen, who had solicited the minor for sex. At the time, she told police in Tennessee she was afraid for her life because Allen became violent and she shot him in self-defence with the gun she kept in her purse. “I shot him because I thought he was gonna shoot me,” a young Brown says in the trailer.
Prosecutors argued that her real motive was robbery and she was tried as an adult. Brown Long was ultimately charged with first degree murder and aggravated robbery, and received two life sentences. This was all despite that fact that she was a minor and a victim of sex trafficking. “This young woman didn’t get a fair shake,” someone in the trailer says.
As national attention on Brown’s case grew, celebrities — including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West — began tweeting their support for her with the hashtag #JusticeForCyntoia and #FreeCyntoiaBrown. Brown Long was granted clemency by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on January 7, 2019, after serving 15 years in prison. She was released from prison on August 8, 2019, after which celebrities like Kardashian West felt motivated to take further stands to help others who were unjustly treated by the American prison system.
Now, Netflix is taking viewers through her journey and the strength it took to overcome a carceral system that failed to try her justly. “In 2004, she was considered a prostitute,” the trailer says. “Today, she would be considered a victim of sexual predators.”
Brown Long's voice throughout the documentary speaks to the numerous women who have faced similar circumstances in recent years and are still fighting an uphill battle in with the American prison system. "When I was 16, I did a horrible thing. I do pray that you show me mercy and that you give me a second chance," Brown Long says in the trailer.
The highly-anticipated film will be premiering on Netflix on April 29th.