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Appeals court considers woman's challenge to life sentence

CINCINNATI — Attorneys are debating whether a Tennessee woman serving a life sentence for killing a man when she was 16 can gain parole. They're arguing before federal appellate judges in Cincinnati who are considering sending the case back to Tennessee.

Attorney Mark Pickrell told a three-judge 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel Thursday that Tennessee's laws are ambiguous on the parole eligibility. He represents Cyntoia Brown, now 30, in a case that has attracted celebrity support for her.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against life-without-parole sentences for juveniles, but Tennessee has argued successfully in lower courts that Brown does have a possibility for parole — after she serves 51 years.

The judges said they could ask the Tennessee Supreme Court to decide that issue before they rule whether Brown's sentence is unconstitutional.

Dan Sewell, The Associated Press

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