Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) earned a reputation for refusing to prosecute police accused of using excessive force against Black suspects when she was the Hennepin County attorney in 2002.
Almost 20 years later, Klobuchar is a 2020 presidential candidate whose “smooth ride” was built in part on the tough-on-crime image she built during eight years as a prosecutor in Minnesota’s most populous county, Washington Post reported.
One of the cases that helped Klobuchar’s rise involved the 2002 death of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards, killed by a stray bullet while she was doing homework at her dining room table.
Myon Burrell, a Black teen, was sentenced to life in prison — one of several co-defendants found guilty of the crime. Burrell, now 33, insists he is innocent. His co-defendants confessed and said Burrell was not even there.
A year-long Associated Press investigation uncovered inconsistencies in the police investigation and new evidence.
The case against Burrell revolved around a teen rival who gave conflicting accounts of the shooting. There was no gun, no fingerprints and no DNA. Later, police used evidence from imprisoned informants, some of whom said they were coached and have since recanted.
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“Alibis were not questioned. Key evidence has gone missing or was never obtained, including a convenience store surveillance tape that Burrell and others say would have cleared him. And the chief homicide detective was caught on camera offering cash for information — even if it was just hearsay,” according to AP.
Klobuchar’s prosecutions have been criticized for their disproportionate effect on poor and minority communities, Washington Post reported. She was aggressive in prosecuting smaller offenses such as vandalism and she routinely asked for longer-than-recommended sentences, including for minors.
Burrell’s co-defendants, Ike Tyson, 21, and Hans Williams, 23, were seen driving by minutes before the shooting, and one of their girlfriends called 911. Both confessed.
Burrell’s name was dropped by a jailhouse informant hours after the shooting. The lead homicide detective was seen on police video — unconfirmed — offering money for information. The informant got $600 for Burrell’s name, AP reported.
Burrell said he was playing video games at a friend’s house the afternoon of the shooting. They went to a convenience store near Tyesha’s house. Police mentioned that two people were with Burrell at the store, but they told AP they never talked to police. Police also did not pull store’s surveillance tapes that Burrell says could have cleared him.
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Burrell did not ask for an attorney during his three-hour interrogation. He asked for his mother 13 times. Police later ruled that his rights had been violated.
A month after Burrell’s arrest, Burrell’s mother was driving home after visiting him in prison when her car went off the road and hit a tree, killing her.
Burrell told AP he believes authorities knew that he was innocent all along.
“They just didn’t feel like my life was worth living,” he said.
Klobuchar hasn’t apologized for her record, Vox reported. In her campaign announcement speech, she talked about her work as a prosecutor, saying that “I always believe in doing my job without fear or favor.”
A spokesperson for her campaign told AP that Myron Burrell was tried and convicted twice in Tyesha’s murder — the second time when Klobuchar was no longer the Hennepin County attorney. If there’s new evidence, she said, it should be immediately reviewed by the court.