MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Myon Burrell, who was sent to prison for life as a teenager but was set free after 18 years behind bars, was arrested in a Minneapolis suburb Tuesday after police said they found a handgun and drugs in his SUV.
Burrell, now 37, was released in 2020 after Minnesota’s pardons board commuted his sentence in a high-profile murder case. The Black man’s prosecution and harsh punishment raised questions about the integrity of the criminal justice system that put him away for the death of a young girl killed by a stray bullet.
The Associated Press and APM Reports in 2020 uncovered new evidence and serious flaws in the police investigation, ultimately leading to the creation of an independent national legal panel to review the case.
The Robbinsdale Police Department said in a news release that an officer on routine patrol Tuesday spotted an SUV veering out of its lane and followed it. The SUV continued to drive erratically, above the speed limit, and went over the lane divider, so the officer made a stop, police said.
The driver was identified from his license as Burrell. The release said there was “an indication of active drug use in the vehicle” and that a loaded handgun was found within reach of the driver. Unpackaged marijuana and other suspected drugs also were found in the SUV, it said.
Burrell was booked into the Hennepin County Jail on suspicion of possession of a handgun by a prohibited person but had not been formally charged. Police said additional charges of driving while intoxicated and drug possession may be added.
Calls and emails to one attorney who helped secure Burrell’s release in 2020 were not immediately returned, while another said he no longer represents him. Burrell remained in custody Tuesday evening. People held in the jail are not allowed to take outside calls.
Burrell, who was 16 at the time, had always maintained his innocence in the 2002 killing of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards, who was shot in the heart while doing homework at her dining room table with her little sister. Edwards’ death enraged the African American community.
The county’s chief prosecutor at the time was Amy Klobuchar, who is now Minnesota’s senior U.S. senator. She had used Burrell’s conviction over the years as an example of her tough-on-crime policies, including during her unsuccessful presidential campaign.
An independent national legal panel formed at her urging to review the murder case concluded that there was a “failure to investigate that illustrates tunnel vision” and that evidence that could have helped exonerate Burrell was either ignored or minimized.
He told the pardons board that he converted to Islam in prison and became a religious leader while behind bars.
While Burrell’s sentence was commuted, his request for a pardon was denied so his felony conviction remained on his record.
The new questions about Burrell’s case surfaced just before Minneapolis was thrust into the national spotlight by the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in a case that forced a national reckoning on race and policing.