Cyntoia Brown's prosecutor responds
I read with interest the Nashville Scene's article "Life Begins at Sixteen: For a Teen's Impulsive, Unthinkable Act, Cyntoia Brown Got an Adult's Sentence. Was Justice Served?" (Feb. 24). I argued for Ms. Brown's transfer from Juvenile Court. I prosecuted her in the Criminal Court jury trial in 2006. Justice was served.
The Scene article was one-sided and gave Ms. Brown's statements and viewpoints as fact. It was written in a light most favorable to Ms. Brown. No information was given regarding the victim, Johnny Allen, except to suggest his motives were less than honorable when he met Ms. Brown.
The question of what to do with juveniles who have committed adult crimes such as this is a particularly perplexing one. Many of our young adults grow up in a street culture filled with drugs, gangs and crime. Too often, they become violent, uneducated, drug-addicted criminals having seen nothing else. In a real sense, they are victims. I recognize this. The Juvenile and Criminal court systems recognize it too.
Because Juvenile Court jurisdiction ends at age 19, there are incredibly difficult decisions to be made in cases such as this: Which juvenile deserves a second (third? fourth?) chance? Which one needs to be incarcerated long term to protect the community? Judge Betty Adams Green struggles with this almost every day. She wishes for a judicial crystal ball to see which juvenile before her — each of whom has a sad story like Ms. Brown's and Garion McGlothen's — will turn his / her life around, and which will go out and kill someone — like Ms. Brown did.
Sometimes, however, the decision is not difficult to make. The article makes much of former Assistant Attorney General Preston Shipp's change of heart from prosecutor to friend of Cyntoia Brown. He apparently went from the attorney general's office, arguing to uphold Ms. Brown's conviction, to system critic, who — we presume — wishes for something (what?) else for Ms. Brown. The article leaves the reader to wonder what suggestions he would make and what result he would now advocate.
Mr. Shipp feels badly about his participation in Ms. Brown's conviction and sentence. I do not. Were it not for excellent work by the police department (Detectives Charles Robinson and Derry Baltimore) and the courage it took for two people to report this crime (the witnesses whom Ms. Brown tried to enlist to go back and clean out the rest of Johnny Allen's house), I would gladly take all the credit for Brown's arrest, conviction and sentence.
Ms. Brown spent years in our juvenile system where, rather than responding to continued attempts to rehabilitate her, she was defiant and violent. At the time of this incident, she was a professional criminal despite her protests that Mr. McGlothen "had her out on a Murfreesboro Road red-light district turning tricks for coke money." Ms. Brown murdered Johnny Allen in cold blood; in her own words, she "executed him." She then took items from his home and his truck and tried, as mentioned, to get others to help her go back to the home and take the rest of his valuables.
Ms. Brown bragged continually about her act, laughing about it in the police department. She threatened the nurses at Western Mental Health Institute with the same type of execution-style murder she committed against Johnny Allen. She plotted serious escape attempts and was violent and assaultive to inmates and staff at the juvenile detention facility.
Ms. Brown was ably represented at trial by two well-respected attorneys. She was afforded every protection of our justice system. Much of Ms. Brown's story, as sad as it may be, had nothing to do with the issue of her guilt.
The title of this article refers to an "impulsive act." This is contrary to the facts of the case (as the jury found). Ms. Brown brought a gun in her purse. She shot Allen in the back of the head while, I believe, he was asleep. She stole his belongings and tried to get others to help her take more. The jury found her guilty of both premeditated murder and "felony murder," killing a person in commission of another offense (here, robbery).
I found Ms. Brown to be one of the most dangerous people I have ever dealt with in 15 years as a prosecutor. Her "magnetic personality" makes her a convenient model for those who want to revamp our system. And perhaps our system needs to be revamped — it's not perfect and I certainly don't claim to have all the answers on this issue. But I sleep well at night knowing that Cyntoia Brown is in prison. I've seen enough people die on our streets for no reason.
Jeff P. Burks
Assistant District Attorney
Last week's dining review ("Country Comes to Town," March 10) contained erroneous information about the breakfast and brunch hours at Puckett's Grocery in downtown Nashville. Breakfast is served from the menu 7 to 11 a.m. daily. For the month of March, breakfast platters and omelets are half-price from 7 to 8 a.m. A weekend breakfast buffet is available from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. with all-you-can-eat eggs, bacon, grits, sausage, biscuits and more for $10 per adult and $6 for kids. Also, the Franklin store opened in 2004, and the Leipers Fork business was sold in 2008.
Finally, in an article unveiling the Nashville Film Festival's 2011 lineup ("Celluloid Carnival," March 3), a processing error resulted in the first page of the article being printed twice, cutting off the second page. The entire article appears online at www.nashvillescene.com, intact.
Leaving the place better than he found it would be small consolation to Vandy fans,…
"The mission of public schools to to provide quality education to ALL the student pool"…
Yet no one here (moost included) has ever explained the logic in NOT improving the…
Robertson is NO rube, he managed to get a Masters in Education from Louisiana Tech…
I find Mr. Pinkston's characterization of charter funding as representative of dollars and students "leaving…