MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — US Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked a top Minnesota prosecutor Thursday to initiate an independent investigation into the case of Myon Burrell, a black teen sentenced to life after an 11-year-old black girl was killed by a stray bullet.
“As you are aware, significant concerns about the evidence and police investigation have been raised by a press investigation, by members of the Hennepin County community, and by Myon’s family,” she wrote in a letter to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.
In calling for an “independent investigation and an independent review,” Klobuchar yielded to increasing community pressure to reopen a case that dogged her Democratic presidential primary run. A yearlong Associated Press investigation published last month uncovered major flaws in the 2002 case, raising questions as to whether the 16-year-old blamed in the little girl’s death may have been wrongfully convicted.
Klobuchar made her decision after meeting with Burrell’s family on Tuesday.
“As I told them,” she wrote, “I believe that if any injustice was done in the quest for justice for Tyesha Edward, it must be addressed.”
Freeman — who in recent weeks has doubled down, saying his office believes the right man was convicted — issued a response Thursday that seemed to indicate he was satisfied with an internal review being carried out by his office. He said any new information about the case should be handed over.
Edwards was killed by a stray bullet while doing her homework at her dining room table. Burrell has served 17 years in prison for her killing, all the while insisting he is innocent.
The AP story was published while Klobuchar’s campaign was gaining steam. But she cancelled 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 then 24 hours later, she ended her campaign and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden.
Burrell was convicted twice, once when Klobuchar was the chief prosecutor. After the verdict was reversed, he was convicted a second time under Freeman’s supervision.
Throughout her political career, Klobuchar has used Burrell’s conviction to trumpet her commitment to racial justice but has faced increasing criticism from the African American community in Minnesota and national media since the AP investigation was published.
Klobuchar responded by saying, repeatedly, that any new evidence, or flawed old evidence, should be reviewed. But her letter to Freeman was her first concrete step toward making that happen. In her letter, she also said she supports sentencing review efforts taking place in other parts of the country, “to allow the system to look back at sentences to ensure that they are just.”
Last month, Freeman released a statement expressing confidence in the work of police and prosecutors in Burrell’s case.
The head of the NAACP in Minnesota, Leslie Redmond, praised Klobuchar’s decision Thursday.
“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,” she said. “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.”
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