Starz has put in development The Case of Cyntoia Brown, a limited drama series inspired by the story of Cyntoia Brown-Long, who served 15 years of a life sentence for killing a man when she was 16 years old. The project, based on Brown-Long’s book, Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System, hails from Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson (Power, Black Mafia Family) and La La Anthony (Power, The Chi), who will executive produce, and writer Santa Sierra (Power Book III: Raising Kanan, Vida). Brown-Long and her husband Jamie Long will consult on the project.
Anthony has been a long-time supporter of Brown-Long and brought the project to Jackson’s G-Unit Film & Television, Inc. banner, which is developing the series under G-Unit’s overall deal with Starz.
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Written by Sierra, the series tells the story of Cyntoia Brown-Long who was sex trafficked by a boyfriend, tried as an adult at 16 years old and sentenced to life in prison for aggravated robbery and first-degree murder. Despite being a minor, the sentence required her to serve at least 51 years before being eligible for parole consideration, which would not make her eligible for parole until she was 67.
Sierra will serve as co-executive producer.
“We’re honored to be entrusted with Cyntoia’s story, which shines a light on the injustice of a system that tried and sentenced an at-risk minor as an adult when she was a victim herself of sex trafficking,” said Christina Davis, President of Original Programming for Starz. “This limited series from Curtis, La La and Santa chronicles Cyntoia’s long journey to freedom and furthers our #TakeTheLead programming mandate centered on narratives by, about and for women and underrepresented audiences.”
For years, Brown-Long maintained that the 2004 killing was an act of self-defense. Over the years, the fight for her release brought prominent lawyers to her defense and support from celebrities in addition to Anthony including LeBron James, Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna. While incarcerated, Brown-Long earned her associates and bachelor’s degrees while also mentoring at-risk youth.
She was granted clemency and released in 2019 and now advocates for criminal justice reform and victims of trafficking. Her case also inspired the introduction of state legislation aimed at protecting minors who are victims of sex trafficking. Since her conviction, juvenile sentencing guidelines in Tennessee have been amended: now, children under the age of 18 cannot be tried for prostitution. If she were to be arrested today, Brown-Long would be treated as a child human trafficking victim.
The project falls under Starz’s recently launched #TakeTheLead initiative, the company’s comprehensive effort to deepen its existing commitment to narratives by, about and for women and underrepresented audiences.