Klobuchar's 'Tough-on-Crime' Past May Knock Her Out of the Race for the Democratic Nomination

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Posted: Jan 30, 2020 6:40 AM
Klobuchar's 'Tough-on-Crime' Past May Knock Her Out of the Race for the Democratic Nomination

Source: AP Photo/Chris Carlson

Throughout her entire campaign for president, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) has continually cited her time as a prosecutor as a means of giving herself clout. But it's looking like that may backfire on her. The Racial Justice Network, Minneapolis NAACP, Black Lives Matter Twin Cities, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar, and Communities United Against Police Brutality is calling on Klobuchar to suspend her campaign after an Associated Press report revealed she may have mishandled a case while she was Hennepin County's attorney, The Hill reported. 

Klobuchar repeatedly recounts one particular case, of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards, who was killed by a stray bullet while doing homework at her family's dining room table. The Democratic candidate and her office worked to lock the shooter up. But now it's looking like the black teen that's currently behind bars serving a life sentence, Myon Burrell, may have been innocent.

From the AP:

With no gun, no DNA, no fingerprints, the case against Burrell revolved around a teen rival who gave conflicting accounts of the shooting. Later, police turned to jailhouse informants, some of whom say they were coached and have since recanted. Alibis were not questioned. Key evidence has gone missing or was never obtained, including a convenience store surveillance tape that Burrell and others say would have cleared him. And the chief homicide detective was caught on camera offering cash for information -- even if it was just hearsay.

Burrell, now 33, has maintained his innocence.

His co-defendants have confessed to the crime that tragically took the life of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards in 2002, saying Burrell was not even there.

For years, one of them has insisted he was actually the trigger man.

“I’m the one that did this,” said Ike Tyson, who is serving a 45-year-sentence. “I did it.”

...

When Klobuchar became top prosecutor in Hennepin County in 1999, crime rates were just starting to fall. But the streets were still flooded by drugs and guns, and Tyesha’s death set off an uproar.

Three suspects were rounded up and charged with murder in less than a week.

Ike Tyson, 21, and Hans Williams, 23, were easy. They were seen driving by minutes before the shooting, and one of their girlfriends called 911. Both have confessed.

Burrell was harder. His name was dropped by a jailhouse informant hours after the shooting, helping steer the police investigation.

The lead homicide detective was seen on police video offering “major dollars” for information, even if it was unconfirmed.

“Hearsay is still worth something to me,” Sgt. Richard Zimmerman told a man in his interrogation room. “Sometimes … you get hearsay here, hearsay there. Sometimes it’s like a jigsaw puzzle, things come together, you know what I mean?”

The man said he didn’t know much, but gave up a few names. He pocketed $600 for just one: Burrell’s.

The current Hennepin County Attorney, Mike Freeman, said he's confident the right man was convicted but his office is always open to an investigation.

Klobuchar's campaign defended her record, saying Burrell was tried and convicted twice. The second trial took place when Klobuchar was no longer the county attorney. 

Based on the new revelations, leaders in the African American community feel strongly about Klobuchar dropping out of the race.

“What I need people to understand is this isn’t about partisanship and this isn’t about politics. This is about justice. ... This isn’t just a situation that happened to the Central Park Five alone. This is a situation that happens all around America. This is a situation that happens right here in Minnesota," Leslie Redmond, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, said in a press conference. "Young people, young adults were given life sentences to rot away in prison. This benefits no one. However, it does benefit politicians who use the criminal justice system to benefit their political careers. Enough is enough.”