Myon Burrell and two others, Tyson, and Williams were indicted by a Hennepin County, Minnesota Grand Jury for first degree murder of Tyesha Edwards and attempted first degree murder of Timothy Oliver. Burrell was charged as an adult. Williams pled guilty to second degree murder for the benefit of a gang, and Tyson pled guilty to second-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder for the benefit of a gang. Burrell, who denied involvement in the shooting from the time of his arrest, proceeded to trial before a jury and was convicted of first degree murder and other charges. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 12 months on the first degree murder charge, plus a consecutive term of 186 months for the attempted murder of Timothy Oliver.
Burrell’s conviction was overturned by the Minnesota Supreme Court, but in April of 2008, he was again convicted of murder in the first degree and attempted murder. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 60 months for the murder and a consecutive term of 186 months for the attempted murder of Timothy Oliver. The Minnesota Supreme Court overturned this sentence while affirming the conviction, and at his third and final sentencing Burrell received a life sentence (with parole eligibility after 30 years) plus twelve months for the murder of Tyesha Edwards and a consecutive 180-month term for the attempted murder of Timothy Oliver.
In the spring of 2020, both activists in the community and Senator Amy Klobuchar called for an investigation into the conviction and sentence of Myon Burrell. Senator Klobuchar served as the County Attorney for Hennepin County at the time of the first trial. The purpose of the investigation was to conduct an independent review, based on best practices of “conviction integrity units” of the conviction and sentence of Myon Burrell, an approach supported by the Great North Innocence Project, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The work of the investigative panel began in July 2020.
The following Preliminary Report on the Integrity of the Conviction is an eye-opening compilation of how a criminal conviction can go awry so easily and how difficult it is to reverse course once a wrongful conviction is placed into the record. As of the date of this Report, the investigative panel’s review has yielded preliminary findings that justify the release of Myon Burrell from further incarceration. This after 18 years of incarceration. The panel concluded that many of the risk factors associated with wrongful convictions in jailhouse informant cases that have been identified and studied since Burrell’s trial in 2008 were operative in his case and highly problematic. The panel had serious concerns about the degree to which evidence supporting Burrell’s innocence was overlooked or not fully investigated. Nearly every witness who testified that Burrell was guilty received sentence reductions or similar benefits in exchange for testimony helpful to the State. The panel also had serious concerns about the identification
testimony of Tim Oliver, the intended victim of the shooting, which was read into the record at the 2008 trial after Oliver’s death. There is evidence that Oliver later recanted his statement implicating Burrell before his death, saying he did not actually see who fired the shots. Finally, the panel has also developed questions about whether benefits were offered to Oliver before he implicated Burrell; indeed, there is some evidence that Oliver may have avoided charges in an unrelated shooting by implicating Burrell in the Edwards case. The Report follows in its entirety.