ROBBINSDALE, Minn — Myon Burrell, who was freed from a life sentence in 2020 and whose murder conviction is currently under review, is now back in jail facing charges of felon in possession of a firearm and fifth-degree drug possession.
The charges stem from a traffic stop in Robbinsdale at 11 a.m. Tuesday, after an officer observed Burrell's vehicle cross the center line twice, according to the criminal complaint. After smelling marijuana smoke, observing "marijuana remnants" and "some indicia of intoxication," the officer searched Burrell's vehicle and said they found a loaded gun with an extended magazine and a backpack containing drugs.
Felon in possession of a firearm is a charge that carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years.
Initial testing on the drugs revealed 16 pills believed to be ecstasy and 21 pills believed to be methamphetamine, according to the complaint. Small plastic baggies and a digital scale were also found in the backpack.
Burrell served 18 years in prison after being convicted twice for the murder of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards in south Minneapolis in 2002. Edwards was killed by a stray bullet that went through her house while she sat at the table doing her homework.
Prosecutors believe Burrell, who was 16 at the time, was trying to shoot a rival gang member. Burrell always maintained his innocence and provided differing alibis throughout the years. He was convicted in two separate trials - one before a jury and one before a judge - and the second conviction has been upheld by appeals courts.
But a movement to free Burrell began in 2020 when an Associated Press article raised questions about the police investigation and subsequent prosecutions.
Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison, influenced by a report penned by a group of six attorneys from around the country, decided to commute Burrell’s life sentence and immediately release him from prison on the basis he was only 16 years old when he allegedly committed his crime.
In an interview with KARE 11 in February, Burrell said he hopes the Attorney General Office's new Conviction Review Unit will help overturn his conviction and wipe his record clean.
"Because I’m not necessarily a free man. You know what I mean?" Burrell said in an interview with KARE 11 News. "I’m home. But I lost two decades of my life for a crime I didn’t commit, and I’m still being held accountable for someone else’s actions. To this day, I still have to walk around as a felon."
The new arrest and charges will not impact the CRU's review of Burrell's murder conviction in any way, according to a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office. The Conviction Review Unit is still in the process of putting together a panel for the re-investigation.
Burrell is currently held in the Hennepin County Jail. The Dakota County Attorney's office is prosecuting the case because Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty has a conflict of interest after paying Burrell to work on her election campaign.
At Burrell's first appearance in court on the new charges Friday, Judge Peter Cahill set bail at $100,000 without conditions. Burrell's attorney Paul Applebaum afterwards said they plan to post that amount and free him from jail as soon as possible.
Applebaum said he is not conceding that the gun in the car belonged to Burrell or was under his control, but he offered explanations if it was.
"If he was culpable, if he was responsible for that gun, maybe people would understand that when you are literally raised in a prison, maybe your thought process isn’t the same as the rest of ours. And you could also factor into that, there are a lot of people that disagree with the outcome of his case and maybe have a vendetta against him. Being a young African-American male, it’s a dangerous world out there. So it’s not inconceivable if you lived in that environment that you might have a gun," Applebaum said. "He wasn't out there waiving this gun around. He wasn't brandishing it. It was in a center console. I think it's easy for people who live in relative safety and prosperity to judge people who maybe live in dangerous neighborhoods about how you should conduct yourself."
Burrell's next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 17.
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