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Minnesotans tell Klobuchar to drop White House run. Reports say she sent innocent Black teen to prison for life

By Jess Sundin |
January 30, 2020
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Michael Toussaint, father of Myon Burrell, speaks
Michael Toussaint, father of Myon Burrell, speaks in front of community supporters (Photo by KingDemetrius Pendleton)

Minneapolis, MN - “A young African American man by the name of Myon Burrell has spent more than half of his life incarcerated in Minnesota prisons under the leadership of Amy Klobuchar. She was the Hennepin County Attorney and she played a role in Myon Burrell being prosecuted for a crime that he did not commit,” said Nekima Levy Pounds of Racial Justice Network, as she opened a press conference on January 29. “We want to lift up family of Tyesha Edwards, who was the victim in this case, an 11-year-old innocent child who was shot and killed. The incident that happened to Tyesha is extremely devastating. It sent shockwaves through our community.”

Police paid a jailhouse informant $600 for names anyone he heard was involved, and within five days of the shooting, Klobuchar was announcing that Burrell and two others would be prosecuted in the high-profile case. The state convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence and coerced eyewitness testimony, with no DNA, fingerprints, ballistics, or other tangible evidence linking him to the crime. His codefendants, who have admitted responsibility and are in prison for the murder, say that Burrell is telling the truth. He was not there.

To date, Klobuchar has taken no steps to remedy the wrongful conviction of Myon Burrell. To the contrary, she has used this case on the presidential campaign trail to build more political capital. Advocates are calling for Amy Klobuchar to immediately suspend her campaign for president, given her role in sending an innocent Black teenager to prison for life.

Nekima Armstrong explained, “On the campaign trail, we have seen Amy Klobuchar use this very case as a talking point during the debate to tout her ‘tough on crime’ record. And again, this is completely unacceptable because there is an innocent man on the other side of her tough on crime record, who has not seen the light of day as a result of her actions.” She and other speakers called for Klobuchar to drop her bid for the presidency, and called for freedom for Myon Burrell, demanding action by the current county attorney, Mike Freeman.

Leslie Redmond, president Minneapolis NAACP, said, “When we think about when they see us, that wasn’t just a situation that happened to the Central Park 5 in New York alone. This is a situation that happens all around America. This is a situation that happens right here in Minnesota. Young people, young adults, were given life, sent to rot away in prison, which benefits no one.” She pointed out one exception, “However it does benefit politicians that have used criminal justice to advance their political careers, and enough is enough.”

Communities United Against Police Brutality President Michelle Gross blasted Klobuchar for knowingly basing the case against Burrell and a police frame-up, and added, “Under her leadership, the Black prison population out of Hennepin County increased by 600%. She felonized non-violent drug offenses and filled up our jails and prisons with brown and Black bodies.” She also noted that Klobuchar failed to prosecute any of the police officers that murdered some 40 civilians during her tenure.

In her campaign for president, Klobuchar has touted Burrell’s conviction as a feather in her cap, claiming she helped the Black community by being tough on crime. Sam Martinez, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar organizer, countered, “Amy Klobuchar is gaslighting the Black and brown and indigenous and working people that she threw in jail and let the police kill. Also she is victim-blaming and saying, ‘Oh, they are the ones who asked me to do this and lock their own people up.’ That is not right. She is gaslighting people and she is trying to defend herself by blaming the people that she threw away and let the system kill and that is not right.”

Marques Armstrong represented the Racial Justice Network, “This man should be free. The last 16 years of his life should not have been spent behind bars. But they should have been spent out here raising a family, loving his wife, and he should have been able to go to his mother’s funeral. The trauma that she experienced, of her son being falsely accused, in my opinion, contributed to her death, and the accident that she had leaving the prison to visit him.” He explained how cases like this have a far-reaching impact of “psychological warfare… trying to get us to believe that our lives don’t matter. But with every breath in my body I am going to continue to scream it - Black lives matter.”

KingDemetrius Pendleton of Listen Media spoke about the importance of this case coming to light, “This is not the movie Just Mercy. This is just life for a Black man every day.” He added, “Think about what Amy Klobuchar has done. This is the only case that has brought worldwide attention to it, but let’s think about the other cases that no one is saying nothing about.”

Michael Toussaint recalled when Klobuchar and the media falsely painted his son as a gang member and tried to further shame the family. “They used me coming out of prison - I was in a halfway house when this happened. ‘His father was just released from prison and this and that. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,’ - versus the simple fact of was he guilty or not, and, “Amy’s thing is that she wasn’t blind to it. She coerced it too. She went along with it. That’s why her name’s brought up. The reason why Amy should be held accountable [now] is because here she is playing as if she’s fighting for people, but then she’s corrupt too.”

Toussaint laid blame for his son’s wrongful conviction, not only on Klobuchar, but also the judge and police. “Me being a Black man and knowing how the system works, it’s not like I just learnt how the system worked. I grew up in the system that’s corrupt. I grew up with the police stepping on my neck, telling me that if they catch me in a dark alley, they’ll kill me. You know these are things that happen to us that y’all never hear about. But they make it seem as if they put these badges on to serve and protect. No, it’s not to serve and protect.

“If you’re being treated like animals, imagine how you would feel. Imagine how your children would feel. It’s injustice, it’s unfair,” Toussaint continued. Then he pointed to the courtrooms on the floors over head and said, “The train is running through here right now, to somebody’s life. They railroading somebody right now.”

Toussaint says that Klobuchar has been unwilling to speak to him about the case. Community members vowed to fight for freedom for Myon Burrell and will never vote racist Amy Klobuchar into the White House.

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