Minnesota prosecutor defends Burrell conviction

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota prosecutor said Monday his office has spent weeks reviewing a murder conviction raised by Amy Klobuchar on the presidential debate stage, saying he believes the evidence that sent a black teenager to prison for life was “quite strong.”

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said he would meet soon with attorneys for Myon Burrell, who was 16 when he was arrested in the 2002 shooting that killed an 11-year-old girl, and with representatives of the Innocence Project.

His statement came just before Burrell was scheduled to appear on ABC-TV to discuss a yearlong Associated Press investigationthat found serious flaws in his case, which relied heavily on a single eyewitness, who offered contradictory accounts about the shooter.

The AP also uncovered questionable police tactics, including a detective who was seen on videotape offering a man in custody cash for “hearsay,” and then only paying for Burrell’s name. Reporters also interviewed Burrell’s two co-defendants, both of whom say Burrell was not even at the scene when Tyesha Edwards was shot and killed. One of them — Ike Tyson — has long been saying he was in fact the triggerman.

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Klobuchar was county attorney when the case was first prosecuted, and has cited it during her political career as an example of finding justice for victims of violence. Since the AP published its findings, she has said any new information in the case should be reviewed by Freeman’s office.

“The evidence is quite strong which is why he was convicted twice,”Freemansaid in his statement.

Freeman took aim at several of the points raised in the AP’s investigation. He said at trial, Burrell offered two different alibis in the case — alibis the state did not find credible. He also said that Burrell confessed to a cousin about his involvement in Edwards’ death —though there is no recording of that call, which allegedly took place while Burrell was locked in a cell in segregation 23 hours a day. And Freeman also said Burrell told a jailhouse informant — a paranoid schizophrenic who testified he “sometimes hears voices” — that he shot the little girl.

Freeman said shifting statements by Burrell’s “accomplices” were found “not credible” by a judge at Burrell’s second trial.

Though he acknowledged there was no gun, fingerprints, DNA or hard evidence, the prosecutor noted many convictions “do not have those elements.”

Though Klobuchar raised the case during the Houston Democratic debate this fall, Freeman noted that the conviction that landed Burrell in prison for life happened under his watch. He said the case“should not be treated like a political football.”

Burrell, however, told ABC News that he feels the senator “is the source of everything that happened.”

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