Myon Burrell, who has maintained his innocence after being convicted of the fatal shooting of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards in 2002, will be released from custody after his sentence was commuted Tuesday.
The Minnesota Board of Pardons considered the 34-year-old's case, with the decision coming down to board members Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison, after Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea recused herself due to her prior involvement in the case.
There had been calls for Burrell to be pardoned after he was arrested for the shooting when he was just 16-years-old, and has been in custody for 18 years.
Walz and Ellison commuted Burrell's sentence to 20 years, and said he can spend the remaining two years on supervised release. At this most recent re-sentencing, Burrell was sentenced to serve 45 years in prison.
An independent panel of experts last week called for his release, noting there were flaws in the investigation into the shooting. It also highlighted his 18 years of good behavior coupled with recent arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court, which opposes overly harsh sentences for juveniles because research shows juveniles' brains and decision-making skills are not fully developed.
Walz cited this Supreme Court argument when he made his decision on Burrell's case.
The Board of Pardons wasn't determining Burrell's guilt or innocence, but rather assessing whether the length of his sentencing was fair.
AG Ellison said that he spoke with now Sen. Amy Klobuchar – who was the Hennepin County prosecutor when Burrell was first charged – and said that she supported the commutation of his sentence.
History of the case
On Nov. 22, 2002, Tyesha Edwards was doing her homework at her family's dining room table when she was fatally shot while the intended victim, 17-year-old Timothy Oliver, was standing in front of the house next door. He was unharmed.
Three days later, two adults – Isaiah Tyson and Hans Williams – were arrested in connection to Tyesha's death. Burrell was arrested the day after that.
In December 2002, the three suspects were indicted on charges of first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder. Burrell was charged as an adult.
Williams pled guilty to second-degree murder for the benefit of a gang. Tyeson pled guilty to second-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder for the benefit of a gang.
Burrell denied any involvement from the moment he was arrested, and his case went to trial. A jury convicted him of first-degree murder and he was sentenced to life in prison plus 12 months as well as a consecutive term of 186 months for the attempted murder of Oliver.
The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the jury decision in May 2005, saying investigators failed to follow proper procedures in giving the Miranda warning. A new trial was held in April 2008, with Burrell waiving his right to have a jury. Hennepin County District Judge Charles A. Porter, Jr. found Burrell guilty.
He was sentenced to life in prison plus 60 months and a consecutive term of 186 months.
Another appeal to the state Supreme Court resulted in an opinion in 2009 that upheld the result of the trial but sent it back to be resentenced.
Burrell was sentenced a third time to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years for killing Tyesha and 15 years for the attempted murder of Oliver after the murder sentence was completed.
Burrell had no more options to appeal his sentence or conviction unless there was new evidence, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office noted.
Since Burrell was arrested in 2002, evidence in the case has shifted, the panel report states. Tyson, who testified that Burrell was the shooter, testified later saying he was the shooter and Burrell wasn't even there. Other witnesses have also retracted their claims.
In the years since calls for the case to be reviewed have increased and made national headlines as Klobuchar campaigned for president. She faced pressure over the Burrell case because at the time of his first trial she was the Hennepin County Attorney. When The Associated Press/APM report was published, Klobuchar joined community members in calling for a review of the case.
The panel's report comes nearly two weeks after Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said his office offered to reduce Burrell's 45-year sentence by 15 years.
“I have reviewed this case thoroughly and I have reached two conclusions,” Freeman said. “First, there is no question that Myon Burrell pulled the trigger that fired the fatal bullet. Second, we have learned much about the brain development of juveniles, especially juvenile males. The minimum sentence of 45 years Mr. Burrell is serving is too long. So, in the interest of justice, we have made the offer to his attorney to drop the 15-year sentence he was to serve for attempted murder after completing his 30-year sentence for Tyesha Edward’s terrible death.”