Stepfather of slain girl fears teen was wrongfully convicted

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Community activists gathered on Wednesday to demand that authorities review the case of a man sentenced to life in the 2002 death of a girl felled by a stray bullet.

Rallying at the Government Center in downtown Minneapolis, the group insisted that Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic presidential candidate, join with police and prosecutors to reexamine the case of Myon Burrell, who was convicted in the murder of Tyesha Edwards. Klobuchar was a top prosecutor at the time of girl’s death, and her office argued the case.

In a story published this week, an Associated Press investigation uncovered new evidence and numerous inconsistencies in the investigation that sent Burrell to prison.

“What I need people to understand is that this is not about partisanship and it’s not about politics,” said Leslie Redmond, president of the Minneapolis NAACP. “This is about justice. This is about what’s right and what’s wrong.”

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It’s a problem not just in Minnesota but all across the country: “Young people, young adults, were given life sentences to rot away in prison,” Redmond said.

The girl’s stepfather, meanwhile, questioned whether Burrell was wrongly convicted in Tyesha’s shooting, which occurred as she studied inside her family’s south Minneapolis home.

“If that man hasn’t done nothing, then he doesn’t need to be in there at all,” Leonard Winborn told the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, a community newspaper, adding that he’s worried Tyesha’s death may have been used by Klobuchar and others for political capital.

Burrell, was 16 at the time of the shooting. He has maintained his innocence.

“They done hurt that man because it’s been almost 20 years now.,” Winborn said. “Whatever happens, I would never want to see somebody do some time for somebody else’s wrongdoing.”

No gun, fingerprints or DNA were ever recovered, and the case centered around the testimony of one teen rival who offered conflicting stories when identifying the triggerman, who was standing 120 feet away, mostly behind a wall.

Klobuchar has long cited the case as an example of her tough-on-crime record as a former top Minnesota prosecutor. She raised Tyesha’s story during a nationally televised Democratic debate in the fall, and had previously used it during her 2006 campaign run for the U.S. Senate. During that time, she arranged for Tyesha’s family members to appear in a political ad.

“Looking at it right now, it was an elevation thing,” Winborn told the paper. “I know all the players. I think my family got hoodwinked.”

He said he reached out to Klobuchar’s office after reading the AP story. He said he was told to call the Hennepin County Attorney’s office.

Klobuchar also declined multiple requests for comment from the AP, but a campaign spokesman said Burrell had been tried and convicted twice — after the first case in 2003 was thrown out by Minnesota’s Supreme Court over a Miranda rights violation — and that any new evidence should be handed over for review by the court.

Burrell’s father, Michael Toussaint, expressed sympathy for Tyesha and her family on Wednesday.

“She didn’t deserve to die,” he said. “This is a child, studying at her table.”

But he also wanted justice for his son, “a young man, just 16 years old … convicted of a case that he didn’t do.”

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