Minnesota Commutes Life Sentence Of Man Convicted As Teen Of Shooting 11-Year-Old

Myon Burrell was released from Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater, Tuesday, following a vote by Minnesota's pardon board commuting his sentence. Burrell, who is Black, was sent to prison for life as a teen in a high-profile murder case that raised questions about the integrity of the criminal justice system that put him away.

Myon Burrell was released from Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater, Tuesday, following a vote by Minnesota’s pardon board commuting his sentence. Burrell, who is Black, was sent to prison for life as a teen in a high-profile murder case that raised questions about the integrity of the criminal justice system that put him away. JOHN MINCHILLO/AP

Myon Burrell’s release at age 34 comes after reports uncovered major flaws in the police investigation that led to his life sentence at 17.

The Minnesota Board of Pardons on Tuesday commuted the life sentence of Myon Burrell, a Black man who was sentenced to life in prison as a minor.

Burrell, who was 16 at the time of his arrest, was accused of fatally shooting an 11-year old girl, who was struck by a stray bullet while doing her homework inside her family’s Minneapolis home.

Following the announcement of his imminent release, Burrell held back tears.

“Thank you. Thank you very much,” he said reaching a hand out to the camera.

Burrell’s case drew intense scrutiny after yearlong investigation by The Associated Press and American Public Media published earlier this year, uncovered new evidence and revealed numerous failures in the Minneapolis Police Department’s handling of the case, including the absence of fingerprint and DNA evidence, and no murder weapon.

The AP’s Robin McDowell reported:

 

“The case against Burrell revolved around a teen rival who gave conflicting accounts of the shooting. Later, police turned to jailhouse informants, some of whom say they were coached and have since recanted. Alibis were not questioned. Key evidence has gone missing or was never obtained … And the chief homicide detective was caught on camera offering cash for information — even if it was just hearsay.”

 

In 2002, Burrell was interrogated by Minneapolis police officers in a grueling session that lasted three hours.

Throughout the grilling, the teenage boy failed to ask for an attorney. Instead, he asked for his mother thirteen separate times.

Repeatedly, he said he wasn’t anywhere near the scene of the shooting. He said there was proof. He and a friend had taken a break from playing video games and walked to a convenience store in search of snacks. There was surveillance footage that could prove it, he told the officers.

The AP story showed the police never tracked down the surveillance video.

In the meantime, Burrell was certified as an adult and placed in solitary confinement as detectives questioned alleged witnesses and brought in two other suspects in connection with the shooting — one of whom later swore he was the trigger man.

By the time Burrell turned 17, just a year after the investigation into the killing of Tyesha Edwards began, the Black teen was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Eventually, the 2003 conviction was thrown out — in part due to the fact that the MPD had violated the boy’s rights — and Burrell was retried in 2008. But he was again found guilty and this time, sentenced to 45 years to life in prison.

On Tuesday night, after nearly two decades of maintaining his innocence and just 11 months after the blistering story by the AP, Burrell was released from prison.

The Minnesota Board of Pardons commuted the 34-year-old’s life sentence to 20 years, saying he could serve out the rest of the time on immediate supervised release.

Prior to the decision, Burrell asked the board, which included Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison, for a pardon as well as a commutation.

“This is not in any way, shape or form me trying to minimize the tragedy of the loss of” Tysha Edwards, he said in the Zoom call from inside the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater, Minn.

“I come before you, a 34-year-old man who spent more than half of his life incarcerated for a crime I didn’t commit,” he added calmly.

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