MINNEAPOLIS — Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman released a detailed statement and posted a YouTube video on Monday, responding to questions surrounding the prosecution and conviction of Myon Burrell.
Burrell is currently serving a life sentence in the death of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards, who was shot while studying inside her south Minneapolis home in November 2002. Burrell, who was a teenager at the time of the shooting, was convicted twice in the case: once in 2003, and again in 2007 after the Minnesota Supreme Court ordered a new trial.
The case has drawn renewed attention following a January 2020 report by the Associated Press and American Public Media, which said it uncovered "new evidence and myriad inconsistencies in the police investigation."
The AP report followed frequent references to the case during campaign appearances by Minnesota Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar, who was serving as Hennepin County Attorney at the time of Edwards' 2002 murder and Burrell's first trial.
"Myon Burrell was convicted by prosecutors in this office not once, but twice," Freeman said in a video statement posted on YouTube. "Contrary to some reports, this was solid police investigation and prosecution. We believe the right man was convicted in this heinous crime. However, as we have said before, if new evidence is submitted to us, we will gladly review it."
The AP report said there was no gun, no DNA, and no fingerprints; it said alibis were not questioned, and "evidence has gone missing or was never obtained."
Burrell, now 33, has maintained his innocence. The Associated Press said Burrell's "co-defendants have confessed to the crime ... Burrell was not even there," with one of those men insisting he pulled the trigger, not Burrell.
"Now, a news report claims Mr. Burrell has a third alibi, that two people are claiming they were with him at a nearby grocery store at the time of the shooting," the Hennepin County Attorney's office statement said. "These two people never came forward and no plausible explanation has been offered why these two people waited 18 years to say anything."
'"None of this evidence is new, with the exception of the two people providing a third alibi 18 years later," the statement continues. "All of the rest of it was introduced in court, evaluated by the fact-finders (a jury in one, a judge in the other) and the result was a guilty verdict both times. And the verdicts and evidence were reviewed by the Minnesota Supreme Court."
RELATED: Explaining the Klobuchar article
Freeman said the case is being politicized now because of Klobuchar's run for president.
"The second trial, the conviction for which Mr. Burrell is now in prison, was obtained by this office after Sen. Klobuchar had left this office. It is inappropriate and unfair, in my view, to try to make it an issue in the current presidential race," Freeman said.
"Amy Klobuchar was not the trial attorney on the case. It should not be treated like a political football. This office will continue to focus on the facts and will not let the politics of the moment influence that review of the facts," the accompanying press release added.
Following the AP report's publication in January, a group of community activists called on Klobuchar to answer questions in the case, with Nekima Levy Armstrong calling on Klobuchar to suspend her presidential campaign.
On Monday, Klobuchar released a statement:
As I’ve said before, this case should be reviewed immediately. This was about an 11-year-old girl, Tyesha Edwards, who was killed while she was sitting at her kitchen table doing her homework. And as a prosecutor, our job is to convict the guilty and protect the innocent. So if any evidence was not put forward or was not appropriately investigated or if new evidence has emerged that should have been discovered at the time, it must be reviewed.
When I was county attorney, I worked with the Innocence Project to advocate for better eyewitness identification procedures and for the widespread use of videotaped interrogations with the goals of reducing wrongful convictions and increasing accountability. In the county attorney’s office, we worked to go back and review all the major cases that involved DNA evidence and to reform the procedures for eyewitness identification. I have been and always will be on the side of justice.
Klobuchar responded to the AP report in early February, saying in a Fox News interview that she was not aware of questionable evidence and police tactics in the Burrell investigation.
A few days later, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota called on Freeman's office to investigate Burrell’s case and to vacate his conviction. It also pushed for the creation of a new unit to prevent, identify and remedy false convictions.
"We focus on facts," Freeman said in his videotaped statement. "If (Burrell's) legal team presents us with new evidence, we will review it. So far, that has not happened."