Black Man Imprisoned for Life as a Teen Released Because Cops Botched the Case

Myon Burrell has already served 18 years.
On the steps of Stillwater Prison, Myon Burrell raised his fist while one of his lawyers, Perry Moriearty​.
On the steps of Stillwater Prison, Myon Burrell raised his fist while one of his lawyers, Perry Moriearty, looks on. (Photo by Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

A Black Minnesota man sentenced to life in prison as a teen is now free after serving 18 years, following a high-profile journalism investigation that revealed major flaws in the case against him.

Myon Burrell, now 34, was originally sentenced to life in prison when he was only 16 years old.  Last week, his sentence was shortened to 20 years by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and the state’s Board of Pardons. He will serve the remaining two years on supervised release, according to the Minnesota Department of Corrections.


Upon leaving Stillwater Minnesota Correctional Facility on Tuesday, Burrell was instantly surrounded by family and supporters. 

“It’s just a blessing,” he told the AP.

This is the first time the state has commuted a murder sentence in 22 years, according to the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Burrell was convicted of murder in 2003 in the death of Tyesha Edwards, an 11-year-old girl who was killed by a stray bullet while doing her homework at her dinner table.

But an investigation earlier this year by the AP and American Public Media (APM) found that the case against Burrell relied on a single eyewitness who was standing 120 feet away from the scene of the crime, as well as accounts of people in jail who later said they were coerced and bribed by police for as much as $500 to finger Burrell as the culprit. 

The AP investigation also found that detectives failed to collect a nearby store’s surveillance video that Burrell said would have shown he was not involved with the shooting that night, and ignored one of Burrell’s co-defendants, Isaiah Tyson, who told police he was the one who fired the gun after initially placing the blame on Burrell earlier on in the investigation.

Despite these shortcomings, and a lack of fingerprints or DNA tying him to the crime scene, investigators concluded that Burrell was their suspect after just four days, according to the AP. 


Burrell has maintained his innocence for the entirety of his sentence.

At the time of Burrell’s conviction, then-newly-elected Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar used the tragedy to bolster her image as a tough-on-crime elected official who was going to tackle violence in Minneapolis. On the 1999 campaign trail for county attorney, Klobuchar had promised to dole out harsher sentences for juvenile defenders, according to the AP. 

Burrell’s case would come to haunt her when she ran for president in 2019, as her aggressive stance on crime in the past played against her.  

Burrell called out Klobuchar as the main reason he says he was falsely accused of the crime, and in an ABC News interview published in February of this year, he said Klobuchar never gave him a chance to prove his innocence.

“She never looked into the facts of the case, never even addressed the misconduct that had taken place,” he said.

Weeks after dropping out of the presidential primaries in March, and a month after AP published its story, Klobucher called for an independent investigation into Burrell’s case.  

Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in a statement to VICE News Thursday that freeing Burrell was the right decision.

“Along with others, I had asked for the independent investigation of this case, and as I said when the report was first released, the sentence deserved immediate review,” Sen. Klobuchar wrote. “I also urge the Minnesota Conviction Review Unit to continue the re-investigation of the facts of the case,” Klobuchar wrote.