If Allen’s family and friends were watching her on the “Today” show, Brown-Long said, she would say she understood their disappointment that she had been granted clemency.
“Of course, I would tell them that I apologize,” Brown-Long, who married while in prison, said in the interview Tuesday with anchor Craig Melvin. “If they would ever want an opportunity to speak with me, I’d be more than happy to.”
Brown-Long, 31, was convicted of killing Allen in 2004 after he picked her up and brought her to his home. She maintains she was a victim of sex trafficking and shot Allen, a stranger, in self-defense when she thought he was reaching for a gun. She then took two of his guns and some money from his wallet and drove away in his truck.
A jury rejected Brown-Long’s argument of self-defense and convicted her on charges of murder and aggravated robbery. She was sentenced in 2006 to life in prison and would not have been eligible for parole until she was in her late 60s.
Then-Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) in January changed the course of Brown-Long’s life by commuting her sentence. She will be on supervised parole for 10 years.
While in prison, Brown-Long earned an associate degree and bachelor’s degree at Lipscomb University in Nashville. She started writing the memoir that was released Tuesday, “Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System.” Celebrities including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian advocated for her release.
Brown-Long has said she had run away from her adoptive parents’ home in the months before she killed Allen, a 43-year-old real estate agent who picked her up at a Sonic Drive-In in Nashville and asked her for sex. According to Brown-Long she had been forced into prostitution by an abusive boyfriend nicknamed “Cut Throat” who sexually assaulted her.
Brown-Long did not think of herself as a victim at the time, she told news anchor Lester Holt on Monday on “NBC Nightly News.” She said she was beaten down after being raped by several men and saw “Cut Throat” as the Clyde to her Bonnie.
She said she expected men at that time to behave violently toward her and always was ready to defend herself. That realization, Brown-Long said, makes her unsure whether she correctly interpreted Allen’s actions as a threat on the night she killed him.
“And, you know, there’s times I wonder, like, was I really, like, in real life in danger?” she told “NBC Nightly News.” “Or was that just in my head?”
Prison was an opportunity for rehabilitation, but the environment made it difficult, Brown-Long said on “Today.” Writing down her experiences brought her back to difficult moments and reminded her that she had not fully healed from them, she said. Brown-Long said she also found faith and realized “God doesn’t work on my time.”
“Although I had said, ‘I want to do the right thing, I want to stay on this path’ … there were several bumps along the way,” Brown-Long said. “And so I really had to find it in myself that I wanted to change.”
After facing so many years of public scrutiny, Brown-Long said she wants people to know she is more than the worst thing she has ever done. There are many women in prison who have similar stories to hers and deserve compassion, Brown-Long said on “NBC Nightly News.”
“The women who helped me get to this point, they’re still in prison for 51 years and up with ridiculous sentences, and they don’t have hope right now,” Brown-Long said. “The system strips them of any personhood, of any voice. And I feel like in seeing me you’re able to see them, because they’re just like me.”