Missouri attorneys give perspective on laws related to Cyntoia Brown case

2 years 2 months 3 weeks ago Monday, November 27 2017 Nov 27, 2017 Monday, November 27, 2017 6:20:00 PM CST November 27, 2017 in News
By: Dallas Parker and Kristen Harris, KOMU 8 News Reporters
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COLUMBIA - Celebrities have joined forces to resurface a 13-year-old murder case that has gone viral on social media, sparking conversation among the public and even local attorneys.

Cyntoia Brown was tried for murder as an adult and convicted at 16 years old. Brown shot and killed a man, saying she was a victim of sex trafficking. 

The case was tried in Tennessee where Brown technically would not be up for parole until she turned 67. A state law there requires a juvenile charged as an adult and sentenced to life in prison to serve 51 years to be eligible for parole.

Recently, celebrities like Rihanna, Kim Kardashian West, Lebron James, and others are supporting Brown by trying to get her out of jail.

MU Communications Law professor Sandra Davidson said she thinks the attention could be good for Brown's plea for freedom.

"Sometimes the decision to free someone is rather political and if you do have a lot of public attention and you have a lot of letter writing, especially if you have politicians or people who do have influence, celebrities who are on your side, writing letters for you, that does make a difference," Davidson said.

Davidson also said every state has its own standards for seriousness of crime.

Dedra Moore, a criminal defense attorney, said there's some things in this case she simply doesn't agree with.

"I'm just really against any rule that requires a juvenile to have the same sentence as an adult. There's a reason there's a difference between a juvenile and an adult. One of the main reasons is an adult's ability to think and reason. The older you get, the better you get at it. So to hold a kid to that standard is a little bit unreasonable," Moore said.

In Missouri, a minor can be tried as an adult on the state's motion, if they file a motion within the juvenile court. There are a couple of factors considered: whether the minor has committed previous crimes similar to the crime they are being charged with or whether the crime is substantial enough that an adult could have committed it.

But Davidson thinks a rise in awareness will definitely help Brown's case.

"As public awareness rises, there are situations where women are being abused, that sex trafficking is a problem, perhaps it becomes easier for a defense attorney to argue that point successfully to a jury," Davidson said.

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