The murder of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards by Myon Burrell

Monday,

Initial Statement of Review of Myon Burrell Case
This statement is being issued to update the public on the status of this office’s consideration of the case of Myon Burrell.

The context is important. This case is being politicized because it first arose when Amy Klobuchar was the Hennepin County Attorney. The case, however, involves the murder of an 11-year old girl, and the person who has been convicted twice of committing that murder. Amy Klobuchar was not the trial attorney on the case. It should not be treated like a political football. This office will continue to focus on the facts and will not let the politics of the moment influence that review of the facts.

It also should be noted that the second trial - the conviction for which Mr. Burrell is now in prison - was obtained by this office after Amy Klobuchar had left this office and with no input from her. So, any complaints should be directed to this office, have nothing to do with Sen. Klobuchar, and it is inappropriate and unfair to try to make them an issue in the current presidential race.

We focus on facts. Burrell is represented by legal counsel and the Innocence Project is actively working on his case. Last Friday they called, and we will be meeting with them soon. We will promptly review any new issues. However, we feel it important to release this preliminary statement as we have been reviewing this case for weeks and there is much misinformation out there.

At this time, accordingly, we are commenting on the information that has been recited in various press reports. Here is a re-cap of the factual history and the major points that have been raised recently:

Basic Facts and Trial Histories
In mid-afternoon November 2002, 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards was sitting at a table in her house doing her homework when a bullet, fired from across the street, pierced the house’s siding and struck Tyesha. She died later that day. Myon Burrell’s target was a rival gang member, Timothy Oliver, who was standing outside of a neighboring house. In the first trial, a Hennepin County District Court jury of 12 citizens unanimously convicted 17-year-old Myon Burrell of murdering Tyesha. Mr. Burrell appealed and in 2005, the Minnesota Supreme Court ordered a new trial based on a Miranda warning error.

In the second trial in late 2007, Mr. Burrell asked for a trial by a judge and not a jury. He was found guilty again. In 2011, Mr. Burrell challenged his conviction again and it was upheld by the district court and the Minnesota Supreme Court. Subsequent appeals were denied by the courts.

Despite the intense scrutiny given this case by the courts, questions have now been raised 18 years later. The answers follow.

Why is Myon Burrell still in prison when he says he did not kill Tyesha Edwards?
A: Myon Burrell has said a lot of things. He initially told police he was in Bemidji with his mother at the time of the shooting. Then, during his trial, the second alibi was, he was at a friend’s house playing video games. Now, a news report claims Mr. Burrell has a third alibi, that two people are claiming they were with him at a nearby grocery store at the time of the shooting. These two people never came forward and no plausible explanation has been offered why these two people waited 18 years to say anything. Mr. Burrell remains in prison because a jury, then a judge, found him guilty of murdering Tyesha Edwards and the Minnesota Supreme Court agreed.

Even without an alibi, isn’t the evidence against Myon Burrell weak?
A: No. The evidence is quite strong which is why he was convicted twice. Timothy Oliver was the intended victim of the gun fire and he saw Burrell across the street shooting at him and identified Burrell by his nickname and in a photo lineup. In pleading guilty, one of Mr. Burrell’s gang accomplices testified that Myon Burrell fired the shots. Mr. Burrell also confessed to a cousin that he was involved in the murder of Tyesha Edwards. Burrell also confessed to a jail inmate who knew details of the murder that had never been made public. The judge found the testimony of Oliver, Burrell’s cousin, and the jail inmate credible.

But the gang case did not have basic evidence like the murder weapon, fingerprints or DNA, did it?
A; Many convictions do not have those elements. Mr. Burrell and his two gang friends drove past Mr. Oliver, who was working on a car and they recognized him as belonging to a rival gang. They returned a short time later and Myon Burrell positioned himself across the street, fired numerous shots, then jumped back into the car and drove off. The gun was never found because Mr. Burrell’s accomplices admitted they got rid of it so there were no surfaces to check for fingerprints or DNA. This is not unusual and no indication of innocence.

Isn’t it true that Mr. Oliver’s testimony was inconsistent, and Mr. Burrell’s companions recanted?
A: The judge in the second trial called Mr. Oliver’s testimony consistent and credible. As for Myon Burrell’s accomplices, they also said a lot of things. Initially, their statements put Mr. Burrell in the car with them and one said Burrell was the shooter. Both accomplices recanted their original statements at Burrell’s second trial and the judge found them "not credible" because their stories were inconsistent and contradicted by other evidence.

Wasn’t a police investigator telling people he had hundreds of dollars if they could provide information on Tyesha Edwards’ murder?
A: It is common practice in cases that are not solved with an immediate arrest for a reward to be offered for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible. In Minnesota, those rewards are often offered through the Crime stoppers organization. Witnesses in gang cases are often extremely reluctant to speak with police so it would not be unusual for a police detective to offer a person a reward for cooperating. In Burrell’s case, the person paid by police did not testify at either trial.

What does Tyesha Edwards’ family have to say about this case?
A: Tyesha’s father, who sat through both trials, is convinced that Myon Burrell is the man who murdered his little girl. He wonders why people are so concerned about Mr. Burrell and appear not to care at all that a bright, young girl who was supposed to be safe in her house, had her life tragically cut short.

In summary, none of this evidence is new, with the exception of the two people providing a third alibi 18 years later. All of the rest of it was introduced in court, evaluated by the fact-finders (a jury in one, a judge in the other) and the result was a guilty verdict both times. And the verdicts and evidence were reviewed by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Former Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, now a U.S. Senator and a candidate for president of the United States, has publicly stated that if new evidence is found, it should be reviewed. As we have consistently stated in other cases throughout the years and we restate it here, we are always willing to look at new evidence. Mr. Burrell has retained a new lawyer to look into his case. We have been cooperating with Burrell’s attorneys in their review of the evidence. If Burrell or his lawyers provide new information, we will carefully review it.

Please direct any inquiries to Citizen Information:
Citizeninfo@hennepin.us
612-348-5550

-----

Key Court Documents (PDF)

Mike Freeman's Statement on YouTube