Amy Klobuchar’s role in Myon Burrell sentencing questioned

Amy Klobuchar's role in Myon Burrell sentencing questioned

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MINNEAPOLIS  — It was a prime-time moment for Amy Klobuchar.

Standing in the glare of television lights at a Democratic presidential debate last fall, she was asked about her years as a top Minnesota prosecutor and allegations she was not committed to racial justice.

“That’s not my record,” she said, staring into the camera.

Yes, she was tough on crime, Klobuchar said, but the African American community was angry about losing kids to gun violence. And she responded.

She told a story that she has cited throughout her political career, including during her 2006 campaign for the U.S. Senate: An 11-year-old girl was killed by a stray bullet while doing homework at her dining room table in 2002. And Klobuchar’s office put Tyesha Edwards’ killer — a black teen — behind bars for life.

But what if Myon Burrell is innocent?

An Associated Press investigation into the 17-year-old case uncovered new evidence and myriad inconsistencies, raising questions about whether he was railroaded by police. This story was produced in collaboration with American Public Media.

Myon Burrell, convicted in the murder of Tyesha Edwards, an 11-year-old girl pierced in the heart by a stray bullet in 2002 while doing homework at her family's dining room table, stands for a photograph at the Stillwater Correctional Facility, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Stillwater, Minn. A growing number of legal experts, community leaders and civil rights activists are worried that the black teenager may have been wrongly convicted in the name of political expediency. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

About the case

The AP reviewed more than a thousand pages of police records, court transcripts and interrogation tapes, and interviewed dozens of inmates, witnesses, family members, former gang leaders, lawyers and criminal justice experts.

The case relied heavily on a teen rival of Burrell’s who gave conflicting accounts when identifying the shooter, who was largely obscured behind a wall 120 feet away.

With no other eyewitnesses, police turned to multiple jailhouse snitches. Some have since recanted, saying they were coached or coerced. Others were given reduced time, raising questions about their credibility. And the lead homicide detective offered “major dollars” for names, even if it was hearsay.

In this Oct. 23, 2019, photo, a bullet hole in a drainage vent cited in a crime scene investigation follows a trajectory towards the former home, in blue, of Tyesha Edwards, an 11-year-old girl pierced in the heart by a stray bullet in 2002 while doing homework at her family's dining room table in Minneapolis. Myon Burrell, a black teenager convicted for the killing with no gun, fingerprints or hard evidence implicating him, has drawn a growing number of legal experts, community leaders and civil rights activists who are worried that he may have been wrongly convicted. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

There was no gun, fingerprints, or DNA. Alibis were never seriously pursued. Key evidence has gone missing or was never obtained, including a convenience store surveillance tape that Burrell and others say would have cleared him.

Burrell, now 33, has maintained his innocence, rejecting all plea deals.

His co-defendants, meanwhile, have admitted their part in Tyesha’s death. Burrell, they say, was not even there.

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