Legal experts review Black Minnesota teen’s life sentence
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — An independent panel of national legal experts will review the conviction of an African American man sentenced as a teenager to life in prison for the murder of a little girl struck by a stray bullet, Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions and the New York-based Innocence Project announced Monday.
Myon Burrell, 34, has spent nearly two decades behind bars. His case captured widespread interest, first at the time of his 2002 arrest, and again this year after Sen. Amy Klobuchar touted it during her run for the U.S. presidency. She used it as an example of how — when top prosecutor in Hennepin County — she helped find justice for the African American community outraged by gun violence and the senseless death of Tyesha Edwards, an 11-year-old Black girl killed while doing homework at her dining-room table.
After the Associated Press and APM Reports highlighted flaws in the investigation that pointed to a possible wrongful conviction, Klobuchar called for a review, saying justice was not only about punishing the guilty but protecting the innocent. She and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office expressed support Monday for the new panel, which hopes to release its findings by the year’s end. The senator has also said she would like to see the formation of a Conviction Integrity Unit and a Sentencing Review Board to look into other potentially flawed cases.
Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project and one of the first proponents for Conviction Integrity Units nationwide, called the review of Burrell’s case an important first step.
He and Laura Nirider — co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, who led efforts to identify and select prospective panel members — will act as advisors as the team looks at the evidence that led to Burrell’s conviction and the appropriateness of his sentence.