Minn. prosecutor: Justice Dept. should review Burrell case

Politics
Myon Burrell

In this Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 photo, Myon Burrell sits inside his cell at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater. On Thursday, March 5, 2020, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., called for an independent probe of the murder case she prosecuted that sent a teenage Burrell to prison for life. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A top Minnesota prosecutor said Monday that Sen. Amy Klobuchar should ask the Justice Department to review the conviction of a black teen sentenced to life in prison after an 11-year-old black girl was killed by a stray bullet.

In doing so, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman appeared to be putting the onus back on Klobuchar.

Just last week, the senator asked Freeman to launch an independent investigation into the case that dogged her unsuccessful Democratic presidential primary run.

Myon Burrell, now 33, has spent more than half his life in prison for the killing of Tyesha Edwards, who was hit by a stray bullet on Nov. 22, 2002, while doing homework at her dining room table.

A yearlong Associated Press investigation published last month exposed major flaws in the police probe and prosecution, raising questions as to whether he may have been wrongfully convicted. Klobuchar was in charge of the Hennepin County attorney’s office from 1999 through 2006. Her office prosecuted Burrell during his first trial, in which he was convicted, and sentenced in 2003. Klobuchar was succeeded by Freeman, who oversaw a second trial for Burrell, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

“Only the Department of Justice would have the resources to independently review a case that includes 30,000 pages of documents plus videotaped evidence,” Freeman wrote, adding that his office would cooperate with any DOJ efforts while carrying out its own review of the case.

Burrell’s lawyer, Dan Guerrero, said he was “encouraged but skeptical” about the latest development in the case.

“I wish the two offices would get together and do the right thing,” he said, adding that Freeman’s press release wildly exaggerated the amount of paperwork tied to the case. “I’ve reviewed the entire investigation and two prosecutions, and there are nowhere close to 30,000 pages involved here.”

Klobuchar, throughout her political career, has used Burrell’s conviction to trumpet her commitment to racial justice, but she has faced increasing criticism from the African American community in Minnesota and national media following the AP report.

Klobuchar outlasted several better-known and better-funded candidates in the Democratic presidential primary, thanks to a better-than-expected third-place finish in in New Hampshire. But she couldn’t turn that into success elsewhere, as she struggled to build out a campaign that could compete across the country and had poor showings in the next contests.

She canceled a rally in her home state two days before the Minnesota Democratic primary after around 100 protesters took over the stage, waving signs and chanting “Free Myon!” Less than 24 hours later, she ended her campaign and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden.

Civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong had mixed feelings about Freeman’s call for a DOJ investigation. It’s better than his previous stance — than an internal review of his own office was sufficient. But he now seems to be “passing the buck to an entity that currently falls under the Trump administration.”

She feels he should “put forward the resources for an independent investigation by a credible agency outside the state of Minnesota” and that he “needs to set up a conviction integrity unit as both the ACLU and the NAACP have called for.”

“As a community, we must continue to put pressure on Mike Freeman until Myon Burrell is free,” she said. “It is clear that he doesn’t care about justice.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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