Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is facing mounting pressure to suspend her presidential campaign after an Associated Press article published Tuesday unearthed evidence that the prosecutorial case she highlighted repeatedly in her campaign may have landed the wrong person in jail. Myon Burrell was 16 when he was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of firing the stray bullet that hit and killed 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards as she was doing homework at a dining room table in 2002, multiple news outlets reported.
Klobuchar, who at the time was the Hennepin County’s district attorney, spearheaded the case against Burrell with no gun, fingerprints, or DNA evidence suggesting he was the killer, The Associated Press reported. Still, the prosecutor was so convinced the black teen committed the crime that she allegedly refused to let him go to his mother’s funeral. “This is what needs to happen when there is this kind of gun, gang violence,” Klobuchar said when Burrell was convicted in 2003.
The case, however, was based in large part on a version of events laid out by a foe of Burrell’s and left alibis unchecked, essential evidence missing, and interview statements severely flawed, with the chief homicide detective caught on video offering money in exchange for secondhand information, the AP reported. “Hearsay is still worth something to me,” Sgt. Richard Zimmerman was shown telling a man he interrogated. “Sometimes … you get hearsay here, hearsay there. Sometimes it’s like a jigsaw puzzle, things come together, you know what I mean?”
The man walked away $600 richer for throwing out a couple names, one of them Burrell. “I know for a fact I didn’t do anything,” the 16-year-old said in 2002, according to CBS Minnesota. Burrell is now 33, and has spent more years behind bars than he did free.
Since the AP investigation, done in collaboration with American Public Media, several activist groups in Minnesota including the Minneapolis NAACP, Black Lives Matter Twin Cities, and Communities United Against Police Brutality, have called for her to discontinue her campaign, according to The Hill. Leslie Redmond, Minneapolis NAACP president, said during a press conference the call to action isn’t about partisanship or politics. “This is about justice,” she said. “This is about what’s right and what’s wrong.”
Redmond drew a comparison to the prosecutorial tactics that infamously landed five innocent teens dubbed the Central Park Five in prison in 1989 only to be exonerated in 2002 when another man confessed to the brutal rape the teens were accused of. The story of Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, and Yusef Salaam was portrayed in When They See Us, a Netflix miniseries Ava DuVernay directed.
“I need Minnesotans to wake up and to recognize we’re not as progressive as we claim to be,” Redmond said. “When we think about ‘When They See Us’ that wasn’t just a situation that happened to the Central Park Five in New York alone. This is a situation that happens all around America.” Redmond went on to say, giving these young adults life sentences benefits no one but politicians who “have used the criminal justice system to enhance their political careers.”