Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) urged a top prosecutor in her home state of Minnesota to initiate an independent investigation into the high-profile case of Myon Burrell, a Black teen Klobuchar helped get sentenced to life in prison in 2002.
In a letter Thursday to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, Klobuchar wrote about how the county’s office twice tried Burrell’s case involving the slaying of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards. Tyesha was killed by a stray bullet while doing her homework inside her house. Burrell, who was found guilty when Klobuchar was the chief prosecutor, has consistently maintained his innocence.
“While the second trial and conviction of Myon Burrell occurred after I left the office, I continue to feel an obligation to ensure that justice is done,” Klobuchar wrote. “That is why, in addition to my request for a review of the new and old evidence in this case, I am asking you to call for an independent investigation and an independent review of the case.”
The Minnesota senator received heat on the 2020 primary campaign trail for her involvement in the case after The Associated Press published a yearlong investigation regarding the police investigation and evidence that put Burrell, then 16, behind bars for life. The AP report raised questions about whether Burrell, now 33, was wrongfully convicted in Tyesha’s shooting death.
On Sunday, Klobuchar canceled a campaign rally in Minnesota after protesters demanded she drop out of the presidential race over her handling of Burrell’s case. Demonstrators from the NAACP’s Minneapolis chapter and Black Lives Matter Twin Cities took the stage chanting “Free Myon” while holding signs that read “SHAME.” The next day, Klobuchar dropped out.
Klobuchar told Freeman in her letter that she met with Burrell’s family on Tuesday and told them she believes “that if any injustice was done in the quest for justice for Tyesha Edwards, it must be addressed.”
Criminal justice reform advocates have criticized Klobuchar’s record of aggressive prosecution ― which included pushing for harsher sentences for nonviolent drug offenders ― for contributing to the mass incarceration of Black and brown people. Her policies reflected the “tough on crime” approach to criminal justice that fueled mass incarceration but was widely applauded at the time. But the country’s views of criminal justice have shifted from a punitive approach to a more restorative one.
“Since I have left the office, new conviction integrity work has occurred in prosecutors’ offices across the country,” Klobuchar wrote. “Many offices include Conviction Integrity Units, something I support. In recent years, work is also being done in the area of sentencing integrity to allow the system to look back at sentences to ensure that they are just. I think these are worthy and important ideas that advance the cause of justice. I will continue to advocate that our federal, state and individual offices throughout the country undertake these reviews.”
The NAACP, which has repeatedly called for accountability from Klobuchar over the years and especially during her presidential campaign, said Thursday that the senator “displayed real leadership” by calling for an independent investigation into Burrell’s case.
“The acknowledgment that this case warrants a review is the first step to righting the wrongs that were committed against Myon and the victim’s family,” said Leslie Redmond, president of the NAACP’s Minneapolis branch. “As the calls for an independent investigation grow, we expect that Attorney Mike Freeman will have the courage to assure justice and liberty is fairly granted.”
Freeman’s office did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on whether he plans to call for an independent investigation. The county attorney released a video last month saying he believes “the right man was convicted in this heinous crime” but that his office will review any new evidence submitted.