MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — US Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Thursday asked the top prosecutor in Hennepin County to initiate an independent investigation into the case of Myon Burrell, a black Minnesota teen sentenced to life after an 11-year-old black girl was killed by a stray bullet.
In a letter to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, Klobuchar said, “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.”
In calling for an “independent investigation and an independent review of the case,” Klobuchar yielded to increasing community pressure to re-open a case that interrupted her Democratic presidential primary run. Last month, The Associated Press published the results of a yearlong investigation that uncovered major flaws in the case, raising questions about whether the 16-year-old shooting suspect was wrongfully convicted.
In her letter to Freeman, Klobuchar said she concluded an independent review is necessary after meeting with Burrell’s family on Tuesday. “As I told them, I believe that if any injustice was done in the quest for justice for Tyesha Edward, it must be addressed,” she said.
Edwards was killed by a stray bullet in 2002 while doing her homework at her dining room table. Burrell has served 17 years in prison for her murder, 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 dozens of protesters waved signs and chanted “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.
“We believe the right man was convicted in this heinous crime,” he said in a video posted to YouTube last month. “However, as we have said before, if new evidence is submitted to us, we will gladly review it.”