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Activists seek freedom for Cyntoia Brown, doing life for murder when she was 16

Cyntoia Brown

WTVF

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- More than a dozen national advocacy groups want the release of a Tennessee woman imprisoned for life after she shot and killed a man who solicited her as a teenage prostitute.

According to The Tennessean, Cyntoia Brown received support in a federal appeals court brief by the Southern Poverty Law Center, The Sentencing Project, the Center for Wrongful Convictions of Youth and others.

Brown has been in prison since 2004, when she was convicted of killing the 43-year-old man who solicited her.

With support from several celebrities, her appeal addresses her sentence's constitutionality and says she lacked the mental capacity for a murder conviction.

Brown's advocates say she was a 16-year-old sex trafficking victim. Prosecutors say Brown killed the man to rob him.

Brown isn't parole eligible until she's 67.

CBS Nashville affiliate WTVF reported in November that more than 200,000 people had signed a petition asking Gov. Bill Haslam to release Brown.

"I think there are still people who don't see her as a victim because they think she made the choice to be out there and put herself in that situation," said Brown's former public defender, Kathy Sinback. "But when you look at all the factors that led her to that place, she was being victimized by an older man who was her pimp, who was beating her, threatening her, and abusing her emotionally, physically, and sexually. I think most people would not be able to protect themselves in those situations if they were 16 years old."

Advocates say it's time for Brown to be treated as a sex trafficking victim, not a criminal.

"She has demonstrated her remorse for what she did and has dedicated herself to an education," said attorney Charles Bone, who has represented Brown pro bono for seven years. "We think it's time for her to be considered for a drastically reduced sentence."

Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Rihanna have posted their support for Brown on social media.