Cyntoia Brown Never Authorized The Netflix Documentary About Her

Netflix’s newest true crime documentary, Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story, offers a new look at the case of Cyntoia Brown, a young woman who served 15 years behind bars for murder before being granted clemency in 2018 by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. (Celebrities like Rihanna, Kim Kardashian West, and LeBron James drew attention to Brown’s case by advocating for her release on social media the year prior.)

Brown’s story begins in 2004, when she was 16 years old. She shot 43-year-old Johnny Michael Allen, who had picked her up at a Sonic fast food restaurant and offered her $150 for sex. At some point during their encounter, Brown shot him in the head and fled in his truck.

Now, Tennessee law has changed, and it’s widely acknowledged that because Brown was a minor at the time, she was a victim of sex-trafficking. During her trial, her lawyers argued that she shot Allen in self-defense, but she was nonetheless sentenced to life in prison.

While incarcerated, Brown received her GED and a Bachelor’s degree from Lipscomb University in Professional Studies in Organizational Leadership. Here’s everything you need to know about her today:

Where is Cyntoia Brown now?

Like many people, Brown appears to be staying at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic and encouraging her Instagram followers to do the same. “I hope you’re staying safe & prayerful!🙏🏼,” she captioned a post on March 30.

She became a prison reform advocate and author.

Brown is now an activist bringing attention to other women’s cases, most recently visiting the DC Department of Corrections, according to her Instagram. She also published a book on her personal connection to the subject in 2019, titled Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System.

Brown is married to husband Jamie Long.

Long wrote to Brown while she was incarcerated after seeing her story in a YouTube video. “I felt it in my spirit to write a letter and here we are now,” he told TODAY. Apparently, Long burned the edges of the paper, and that stuck out to Brown. “So I decided, I’m gonna write him back,” she explained. “And then, of course, he was really cute.”

“I felt it in my spirit to write a letter and here we are now,” Cyntoia Brown-Long and her husband talk about how they cultivated a relationship while she was incarcerated.

They first saw each other after four months of correspondence. “As soon as I laid eyes on her, I was like, ‘That’s my wife,'” Long said. “…I didn’t tell her that she was my wife, but I knew.”

And their love is still going strong years later. They recently spent a sweet Valentine’s Day together.

And these days, the couple seems to be simply enjoying their quality time together at home, creating funny Instagram posts.

But she never authorized the Netflix documentary.

Not only that, but news about Murder to Mercy totally blindsided her. “While I was still incarcerated, a producer who has old footage of me made a deal with Netflix for an UNAUTHORIZED documentary, set to be released soon,” she tweeted on April 15, posting the same message to Instagram, per The Root. “My husband and I were as surprised as everyone else when we first heard the news because we did not participate in any way.”

Much of Murder to Mercy is repurposed footage from a PBS doc by Daniel Birman, titled Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story. (Brown did participate in that film, but did not authorize Birman’s repurposing of the footage for his new film.) She followed up the tweet with a reply, saying, “However, I am currently in the process of sharing my story, in the right way, in full detail, and in a way that depicts and respects the woman I am today. While I pray that this film highlights things wrong in our justice system, I had nothing to do with this documentary.”

These tweets have since been deleted, and a Netflix rep told the Daily Beast that Brown will now be promoting her book along with the film “in an exclusive interview.

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