A national panel of legal experts recommended the immediate release of a Black man sentenced to life in prison as a teenager nearly two decades ago, reports the Associated Press. The panel said Minneapolis police appear to have suffered from “tunnel vision” while investigating the case of Myon Burrell, who was convicted of killing a girl hit by a stray bullet in 2002. The panel said police ignored witnesses and evidence that might have helped eliminate Burrell as a suspect. An investigation by AP and APM Reports had reported on unreliable testimony from the sole eyewitness, a heavy reliance on jailhouse informants who received “extraordinarily generous” sentence reductions in exchange for their testimonies; and a failure to retrieve surveillance video from a corner store that Burrell, now 34, has always maintained would have cleared him.
The eight-member panel recommended that the case be handed over to the state’s new conviction review unit for further investigation, noting that the missing police and prosecution files, witness interviews, tape recordings and details about deals cut with jailhouse informants “may yield new evidence of actual innocence or due process issues.” In the meantime, the panel supported Burrell’s release from prison, noting his age at the time of the crime, that he had no prior record and that he behaved well behind bars. Burrell was accused of killing Tyesha Edwards, a sixth grade Black girl who was shot through the heart while doing homework at her dining room table with her sister. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), then the city’s top prosecutor, has held up Burrell’s conviction as an example of her tough-on-crime policies that helped put away young, dangerous offenders.