Hennepin County attorney defends Myon Burrell conviction

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A Minnesota prosecutor said Monday his office has spent weeks reviewing a murder conviction raised by Amy Klobuchar on the presidential debate stage, saying he believes the evidence that sent a black teenager to prison for life was "quite strong."

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said he would meet soon with attorneys for Myon Burrell, who was 16 when he was arrested in the 2002 shooting that killed an 11-year-old girl, and with representatives of the Innocence Project.

His comments followed a year-long Associated Press investigation that found serious flaws in the case, which relied heavily on a single eyewitness, who offered contradictory accounts about the shooter.

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The AP also uncovered questionable police tactics, including a detective who was seen on videotape offering a man in custody cash for “hearsay,” and then only paying for Burrell’s name. Reporters also interviewed Burrell’s two co-defendants, both of whom say Burrell was not even at the scene when Tyesha Edwards was shot and killed. One of them — Ike Tyson — has long been saying he was in fact the triggerman.

Klobuchar was county attorney when the case was first prosecuted, and has cited it during her political career as an example of finding justice for victims of violence. Since the AP published its findings, she has said any new information in the case should be reviewed by Freeman’s office.

“The evidence is quite strong which is why he was convicted twice,” he said in his statement.

Freeman took aim atseveralof the points raised in the AP’s investigation. He said at trial, Burrell offered two different alibis in the case — alibis the state did not find credible. He also said that Burrell separately confessed to a cousin about his involvement in Edwards’ death. And that Burrell told a jailhouse informant — a paranoid schizophrenic who testified he “sometimes hears voices” — he shot the little girl.

Freeman said shifting statements by Burrell’s “accomplices” were found “not credible” by a judge at Burrell’s second trial.

Though he acknowledged there was no gun, fingerprints, DNA or hard evidence, the prosecutor noted many convictions “do not have those elements.”

Klobuchar issued the following statement: 

"As I’ve said before, this case should be reviewed immediately. This was about an 11-year-old girl, Tyesha Edwards, who was killed while she was sitting at her kitchen table doing her homework. And as a prosecutor, our job is to convict the guilty and protect the innocent. So if any evidence was not put forward or was not appropriately investigated or if new evidence has emerged that should have been discovered at the time, it must be reviewed.
"When I was county attorney, I worked with the Innocence Project to advocate for better eyewitness identification procedures and for the widespread use of videotaped interrogations with the goals of reducing wrongful convictions and increasing accountability. In the county attorney’s office, we worked to go back and review all the major cases that involved DNA evidence and to reform the procedures for eyewitness identification. I have been and always will be on the side of justice."