Stepfather of slain girl fears teen prosecuted by Klobuchar was wrongfully convicted
The stepfather of girl killed by a stray bullet 17 years ago is now questioning whether a teenager sentenced to life for the shooting was wrongfully convicted.
Leonard Winborn made the comments Tuesday to the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, a community newspaper in the south Minneapolis neighborhood where his 11-year-old daughter, Tyesha Edwards, was shot while studying inside her home.
Winborn was responding to an Associated Press investigation that uncovered new evidence and numerous inconsistencies about the Nov. 22, 2002, case.
Steven Schier, political science professor at Carlton College said of the case, "this is a problem for her candidacy but it becomes an even bigger problem for her candidacy if she's more successful down the road because she'll get more scrutiny, all her actions as a prosecutor will get national as well as local attention".
The convicted shooter, Myon Burrell, was 16 at the time. He has maintained his innocence.
"If that man hasn't done nothing, then he doesn't need to be in there at all," said Winborn, adding that he's worried Tyesha's death may have been used by Sen. Amy Klobuchar and others for political capital.
"They done hurt that man because it's been almost 20 years now. Whatever happens, I would never want to see somebody do some time for somebody else's wrongdoing."
No gun, fingerprints or DNA were ever recovered, and the case centered around the testimony of one teen rival who offered conflicting stories when identifying the triggerman, who was standing 120 feet away, mostly behind a wall.
Klobuchar has long cited the case as an example of her tough-on-crime record as a former top Minnesota prosecutor. She raised Tyesha's story during a nationally televised Democratic debate in the fall, and had previously used it during her 2006 campaign run for the U.S. Senate. During that time, she arranged for Tyesha's family members to appear in a political ad.
"Looking at it right now, it was an elevation thing," Winborn told the paper. "I know all the players. I think my family got hoodwinked."
He said he reached out to Klobuchar's office after reading the AP story. He said he was told to call the Hennepin County Attorney's office.
Klobuchar also declined multiple requests for comment from the AP, but a campaign spokesman said Burrell had been tried and convicted twice — after the first case in 2003 was thrown out by Minnesota's Supreme Court over a Miranda rights violation — and that any new evidence should be handed over for review by the court.
"Senator Klobuchar has advocated for reforms to our criminal justice system over the years, including during her time as Hennepin County Attorney. If there is new evidence in this case, it should be immediately reviewed by the court," a campaign spokesperson told KSTP Wednesday.
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office issued the following statement to KSTP on Wednesday:
"Our office has been fully cooperative with the Associated Press and Myon Burrell's defense attorneys. Neither the Associated Press or Myon Burrell's lawyers have shared any new evidence with us. If any new information is presented, it will carefully be reviewed by our office."