Activists from the NAACP and Black Lives Matter called on Sen. Amy Klobuchar to end her presidential campaign Wednesday after a report exposed her involvement in the conviction of a black teen who maintains his innocence.
The Associated Press dropped a bomb on the Klobuchar campaign Tuesday, less than a week before the Iowa caucuses. The report “uncovered new evidence and myriad inconsistencies” in Klobuchar’s prosecution of Myon Burrell when she served as Hennepin County Attorney.
Burrell was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 16 for the 2002 murder of Tyesha Edwards and was retried in 2008 by current Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman after the Minnesota Supreme Court ordered a new trial.
“There was no gun, fingerprints, or DNA. Alibis were never seriously pursued. Key evidence has gone missing or was never obtained, including a convenience store surveillance tape that Burrell and others say would have cleared him,” the Associated Press investigation said of the case against Burrell.
Burrell’s co-defendants have insisted that he was not at the crime scene during the time of the murder and one has even claimed that he pulled the trigger.
“If you were young and black, and your case was tied to gangs or drugs, it was an especially scary time,” said Mary Moriarty, a public defender in Hennepin County. “I do firmly believe that there were people convicted of crimes that they did not do.”
She noted that the high-profile nature of the Edwards case placed “a lot of pressure on the system” to secure a conviction.
“I think a lot of corners were probably cut,” she added.
The only eyewitness in the case was a “teen rival” of Burrell’s and the police relied heavily on “jailhouse snitches,” said the Associated Press.
A group of community activists, including Burrell’s father, gathered outside the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office Wednesday morning to demand Klobuchar withdraw from the race.
Watch @ChaoStrib's broadcast: Community groups call for Amy Klobuchar to withdraw from presidential race after AP article on her & police handling of murder case against Myron Burrell: https://t.co/iZTnLWm8vM
— Chao Xiong (@ChaoStrib) January 29, 2020
“He has lost his innocence, he has lost his childhood, he has lost his young adulthood as a result of this travesty of justice, and as such, we cannot stand by while Amy Klobuchar continues her run for president and continues to deflect her responsibility in her involvement in this case,” said civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong.
Members of the Minneapolis NAACP, Black Lives Matter Twin Cities, the Racial Justice Network, and Communities United Against Police Brutality were present at the press conference.
“As a community, we have consistently called into question Amy Klobuchar’s record as a prosecutor,” said Armstrong, founder of the Racial Justice Network. “So we are here today calling for Amy Klobuchar to immediately suspend her campaign for president of the United States and to become active in helping to set Myon Burrell free from incarceration.”
Leslie Redmond, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, accused Klobuchar of using the criminal justice system to enhance her political career.
“Amy Klobuchar, you have questions that need to be answered. You have communities that need to be visited. Most importantly, you have wrongs that need to be righted,” she said.
Others said Klobuchar has “engaged in conduct that is inappropriate and unbecoming of anyone running for president of the United States.”
In a statement provided to the media, Klobuchar’s campaign noted that she was no longer Hennepin County Attorney during Burrell’s second trial and said the case should be immediately reviewed if there is new evidence.
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