Rethinking a girl’s life sentence

In 2017, a sequence of tweets by Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West turned the marketing campaign to commute just one younger woman’s existence imprisonment into the world wide hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown.

The new Netflix documentary “Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story” is the extended-sort version of that narrative, and a transferring reflection of what criminal justice reform indicates in particular phrases.

In 2004 at age 16, Brown was arrested on charges of capturing and killing actual estate agent Johnny M. Allen at his dwelling in Nashville, Tennessee. Brown (who has considering that married and goes by the identify Cyntoia Brown-Prolonged), less than force from her boyfriend-pimp, achieved Allen outdoors a quick-food restaurant, the place he was soliciting sex.

Brown testified that she acted in self-defense later when she considered Allen, 43, was reaching for a gun.

She was experimented with and convicted as an adult and finally sentenced to existence in prison.

In November 2017, amid the #MeToo movement, a Nashville area Television news report about the circumstance went viral, drawing the interest of celebrity activists and the governor of Tennessee at the time, Bill Haslam. In just one of his previous functions in office, Haslam granted Brown clemency and commuted her sentence.

The movie, directed by Daniel H. Birman, is a continuation of his 2011 PBS documentary, which 1st drew interest to the circumstance.

The film is not a sensational legitimate-crime excavation in the mould of what has turn out to be its personal streaming style. Rather, it thoughtfully examines how advancements in the health care and cultural knowing of psychological wellness, like inherited trauma, are crucial considerations not often prolonged to before convictions.

In Brown’s circumstance, a merciful re-assessment allowed for a second likelihood.

In the spirit of Richard Linklater’s narrative function “Boyhood,” the visual electric power of “Murder to Mercy” lies in witnessing Brown’s evolution from the bewildered 16-calendar year-aged woman struggling with a existence sentence to the self-aware 31-calendar year-aged girl who emerged into flexibility previous calendar year.

The minimalist direction and subtle scoring provide to middle Brown’s personal terms and individuals of both of those her adoptive mother and organic mother in interviews.

This is a quiet, elegant memoir that humanizes a systemic American obstacle — and delivers a narrative catharsis only attainable with actual-existence mercy.

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