Activists call for the release of Myon Burrell

Photo by King Demetrius Pendelton Michael Toussaint and Nekima Levy Armstrong

Sen. Amy Klobuchar denounced for her role in his conviction

Conclusion of a two-part story

“A young African American man by the name of Myon Burrell has spent more than half of his life incarcerated in Minnesota prisons under the leadership of Amy Klobuchar,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong of Racial Justice Network at a press conference last week. “She was the Hennepin County Attorney, and she played a role in Myon Burrell being prosecuted for a crime that he did not commit. We are here today to call on Amy Klobuchar to immediately end her campaign for president.”

Klobuchar mentioned Burrell’s conviction during a debate in which she was trying to defend her record on racial justice. She pointed out she locked up those responsible for the accidental shooting death of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards in 2002. Burrell, now 33, was 16 at the time of the shooting. He has maintained his innocence throughout.

“We have seen Amy Klobuchar use this very case as a talking point during the debate to tout her ‘tough on crime’ record,” said Levy Armstrong. “And again, this is completely unacceptable, because there is an innocent man on the other side of her tough-on-crime record who has not seen the light of day as a result of her actions.”  

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Levy Armstrong and other speakers called for the release of Burrell and demanded action by the current county attorney, Mike Freeman.

“They used me coming out of prison—I was in a halfway house when this happened,” said Michael Toussaint, Burrell’s father, during the press conference. “[They said,] ‘His father was just released from prison and this and that. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,’ versus the simple fact of was he guilty or not.”

“Amy’s thing is that she wasn’t blind to it,” Toussaint continued. “She coerced it too. She went along with it.”

Asked why he brought up Klobuchar, Toussaint replied, “Because she brought my son up, herself. She’s the one who opened this up. The reason why Amy should be held accountable [now] is because here she is playing as if she’s fighting for people, but then she’s corrupt too.”

Toussaint pointed out that Klobuchar and the corporate press falsely accused his son of being a gang member, which made it difficult for him to get a fair trial.

“This is not about partisanship and this is not about politics,” said Minneapolis NAACP President Leslie Redmond. “This is about justice. This is about what’s right and what’s wrong.

“When we think about [the documentary] ‘When They See Us,’ that wasn’t just a situation that happened to the Central Park 5 in New York alone. This is a situation that happens right here in Minnesota.

“Young people, young adults, were given life, sent to rot away in prison, which benefits no one. However, it does benefit politicians that have used criminal justice to advance their political careers,” explained Redmond.

Photo by King Demetrius Pendelton MPls NAACP president Leslie Redmond

Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality accused Klobuchar of knowingly allowing police to frame Burrell. She also pointed out that under her tenure, police officers who killed citizens were not prosecuted.

Burrell was convicted on circumstantial evidence and information obtained from jailhouse snitches. According to an earlier AP story, these informants were paid by the police.

Adding to concerns about Burrell’s conviction was the lack of any corroborating evidence such as DNA, fingerprints, ballistics, or other tangible evidence linking him to the crime. His codefendants, who have admitted responsibility and are in prison for the murder, all have stated that Burrell was not involved in any way in the shooting.

Toussaint told the press that he has reached out to Klobuchar but she has not been willing to talk to him about the case. “You know these are things that happen to us that y’all never hear about. But they make it seem as if they put these badges on to serve and protect. No, it’s not to serve and protect… The train is running through here right now, to somebody’s life. They railroading somebody right now,” said the impassioned father.

In an interview with the MSR last week, Edwards’ stepfather Leonard Winborn said, “If that man hasn’t done nothing, then he doesn’t need to be in there at all. They done hurt that man because it’s been almost 20 years now. Whatever happens, I would never want to see somebody do some time for somebody else’s wrongdoing.”

Klobuchar’s campaign recently released a statement saying, “Neither the Associated Press or Myon Burrell’s lawyers have shared any new evidence with us. If any new information is presented, it will carefully be reviewed by our office.”