A Short Moral Assessment to Punishments

Blean Tsige

This essay introduces the concepts of morality by analysing the case of Cyntoia Brown. The analysis consists of understanding the moral reasoning in her case and the view of her moral behaviour. Finally, it is possible to presume that it is fair to not go to prison for murder as in the instance of Cyntoia Brown.


When Is It Fair To Not Go To Prison For Murder?

Cyntoia Brown had to endure a difficult youth (Gilligan, 1982). At the age of 16, she was sentenced to life in prison in the US for killing 43-year-old Johnny Allen after he had sex trafficked her (Osborne & Kelly, 2019). She was a teen prostitute solicited multiple times to have sex with different men. When she was 14 years old she met Allen who paid her to have sex with him. She agreed and when they were in the bedroom she thought he was reaching for a gun under the bed, so to protect herself she shot him in the back of the head. Once police had arrived and had taken on this investigation they came to the conclusion that Brown's intentions were to rub Allen.

This turned into her being charged with first-degree murder and she was sentenced to life in prison. Even though she was convicted the case did not come to an end. Her lawyers tried to continue to fight for her freedom because there was enough evidence to prove that she was innocent and acted in self-defence. However, prosecutors, the court and most of the jury were convinced that she shot him to steal his wallet. But why would she risk her livelihood to just steal a wallet? How is it fair that she is being tried for murder as an adult even though she was 14 years old at the time of the murder? Is it really fair for her to go to prison for murder? 

Figure 1. Depicts an example and not real events

In this case, breaking the law to save one own life is justified in some people’s eyes such as famous celebrities Rihanna and Kim Kardashian. They shared their views online after the judge failed to dismiss this case since Brown was a minor and already suffering enough for being a teen prostitute (Gilligan, 1982). Another important part is to reason morally this means it is vital to use a logical process to determine whether an action is right or wrong (Bennett, 2005). Moral reasoning does not always equal moral behaviour (Bennett, 2005). In this case, it means that Brown’s actions are justified. She has defended herself as any other person would in her situation.

It is also a moral obligation for the judge to take into consideration that she is a minor and Allen was a 43-year-old paedophile who does not deserve justice (Gilligan, 1982). It is actually a nobel act of Brown to protect not only herself but others that could have been sexually abused by Allen. Even if Brown's intentions were not to kill him because of the sex, she still acts nobly unintentionally (Bennett, 2005). One less evil paedophile on this earth is always better. However, it is also important to consider that the Court including the judge had no legal obligation to reconsider her case. According to the law in this state, Brown had to be sentenced. 

In conclusion, her case was reconsidered through the outcry of the public. Her case was often times viewed and followed by many people worldwide. Brown’s case also received a lot of attention from the stars which helped her strengthen her innocence through being able to convince the jury and judge. In the end, she was able to be free. Maybe it is possible to conclude therefore that it is fair to not go to prison for murder if there is somewhat of a moral reasoning carried out. 



Bennett, J. (2005). Groundwork for the metaphysics of morals, Immanuel Kant. 

Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Harvard University Press.

Osborne, M., & Keneally, M. (2019, August 7). Cyntoia Brown, alleged sex trafficking victim who was convicted of murder, released from prison. ABC News. Retrieved October 8, 2022, from