“Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story” Review


Isabella McAllister, Newspaper Managing Editor

“Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story” is a story about Cyntoia Brown, a 16-year old girl who was sentenced to 51 years in prison for the murder of Johnny Allen in 2004. The documentary was good overall but felt like it had some loss of focus. It leaves out the critical voice of Cyntoia Brown. She speaks during the film, but not enough in my opinion. It feels like it is missing the realness of the social, political, and racial context that leads to her conviction. It leaves gaps that leave you in question. 


She was being forced to do things that she didn’t want to do and she felt like she was protecting herself with the decision she made, and it landed her in prison. She trusted the police, and her Miranda Rights ended up being waved away. These rights would give her the right to an attorney during questioning. As young as she was I feel like she did not fully understand her own rights. 


She was a girl who just wanted to be loved and grew up feeling like she was never loved. Her story is very unique because of how she was brought up. Her biological mother got pregnant with her at 16 years old and gave Cyntoia up for adoption. In this documentary, Cyntoia’s biological mother admitted to drinking constantly while she was pregnant. This resulted in Cyntoia to suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. On top of that, her biological mother had a long strand of family issues that connected the reasons for Cyntoia’s personality disorder and lashing out. 


Cyntoia was charged with criminal homicide, handgun possession, criminal impersonation, and she was being trialed as an adult in the state of Tennessee due to the offense. Juveniles can be transferred on any charge, but she in her case was. The film is somewhat graphic in the images of the murder and I would not advise for people who cannot handle it. 


Watching this was really heartbreaking, because she was a child herself, younger than I am now and she was not taken into consideration for still being a juvenile. She uses the claim that she shot the guy because she felt like he was going to shoot her, but the court did not see that she was in danger. It’s hard to see these people trying to help her just not be able to do anything more. 


Cyntoia’s behavior as a “model prisoner” ultimately won her freedom. Cyntoia Brown after 15 years in prison, was released. She ends up turning her life around and is now sharing her story. It has really opened my eyes to how the legal system that is meant to protect children is really exploiting them and is corrupt. I feel like wanting to find out more about her would be better in finding another documentary, because this one is limited. Overall, I enjoyed watching this documentary. It was tragic, but in a way good to learn about this case, and how she was able to turn her life around for herself.