The Minnesota Board of Pardons on Tuesday commuted the life sentence of a man who was convicted of hitting and killing an 11-year-old girl with a stray bullet in 2002, CBS Minnesota reports. Myon Burrell’s sentence was shortened to 20 years, the remainder of which he will serve on supervised release.
Tyesha Edwards was killed on November 22, 2002, after a stray bullet tore through the wall of her home in Minneapolis. Authorities say the shooting was part of a gang war, and that the intended target was outside next to Edwards’ house when the shooting occurred. Burrell was 16 years old at the time.
Burrell was first convicted in 2003 for Edwards’ death, and was convicted again in 2008 after the first verdict was thrown out, according to CBS Minnesota.
Burrell has denied any involvement in the crime. The case gained national attention earlier this year after an investigation from The Associated Press concluded that there was no physical evidence linking Burrell to the murder and alleged significant flaws in the police investigation.
The decision to commute Burrell’s sentence was made by Governor Tim Walz and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. Chief Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Lorie Gildea, who would typically participate in the vote, recused herself due to prior involvement in the case, CBS Minnesota reported.
In support of his decision to commute Burrell’s sentence, Governor Walz cited scientific evidence and Supreme Court rulings highlighting the difference between the brain of a teenager and that of an adult.
“We’re not here to relitigate the crime committed against your family that took your daughter away. There is nothing I can do to ease your pain, and it will not be made better,” Walz told Edwards’ family during the meeting, according to The Associated Press. “But we must act today to recognize the law in this area has changed. Justice is not served by incarcerating a child for his entire lifetime for a horrible mistake committed many years ago.”
Ellison expressed a similar view on Twitter. “Mr. Myon Burrell’s age at the time of his conviction is extremely persuasive to me in terms of a commutation,” he wrote. “The Supreme Court has said it is unconstitutional to give a juvenile a life sentence.”
“Mr. Burrell has shown tremendous rehabilitation, positive programming, and leadership during his incarceration,” he added. “For those reasons, I voted for his commutation. He just walked out of Stillwater Prison today, under supervised release. I wish him and his family the best.”
Burrell, now 34, has spent almost two decades in prison.
His case also made headlines earlier in the year due to the presidential campaign of Senator Amy Klobuchar. Klobuchar, who was the chief prosecutor in Hennepin County the first time Burell was convicted, has long touted his conviction as evidence that she’s tough on crime.
But Klobuchar has faced criticism for her role in his case, and in March she called for an independent investigation.
Klobuchar released a statement Tuesday calling the commutation “the right and just decision,” according to CBS Minnesota.