Gun and drug charges filed against Myon Burrell, sent to prison for life as teen but freed in 2020

Sep 1, 2023, 10:45 AM

FILE - Myon Burrell, center, is released from Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater, Tuesday, ...

FILE - Myon Burrell, center, is released from Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, in Bayport, Minn. Burrell, a Black man who was sent to prison for life as a teenager but was set free in 2020 after 18 years behind bars, was arrested in a Minneapolis suburb Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023, on potential gun and drug charges. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

(AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Prosecutors filed gun and drug charges Friday against Myon Burrell, who was sent to prison for life as a teenager but was set free in 2020 after 18 years behind bars after his sentence was commuted in a high-profile murder case.

Burrell, now 37, was arrested in the Minneapolis suburb of Robbinsdale on Tuesday after police said they found a handgun and drugs in his SUV during a traffic stop.

His prosecution and harsh punishment in the murder case raised questions about the integrity of the criminal justice system that put him away for the death 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards, of Minneapolis, who was killed by a stray bullet as she was doing her homework in 2008.

The Associated Press and APM Reports in 2020 uncovered new evidence and serious flaws in that police investigation, ultimately leading to the creation of an independent national legal panel to review the case, which led the state pardons board to commute Burrell’s sentence. However, his request for a pardon was denied so his felony conviction for first-degree murder remained on his record, making it still illegal for him to have a gun.

A criminal complaint filed in Hennepin County District Court on Friday charges Burrell with one count of possession of a firearm by an ineligible person because of his prior conviction, and one count of possession of a controlled substance. The complaint says officers who searched his SUV found a Glock 17 9 mm handgun with an extended magazine in the center console.

The complaint also says police found in a backpack in the rear seat two plastic bags of suspected marijuana, a bag with 21 capsules containing a crystal-like powder, another bag with 16 suspected ecstasy pills, and a digital scale The suspected marijuana field-tested positive, while one of the 21 capsules field-tested positive for methamphetamine and one of the 16 pills field-tested presumptively positive for ecstasy, it said. The complaint did not give a weight for the marijuana; possession of up to two ounces became legal in Minnesota on July 1.

Blood and urine tests results were pending, the complaint said.

“As in so many criminal prosecutions, things may not be as they first appear,” his attorney, Paul Applebaum, said in an email. “I am particularly interested in the circumstances surrounding the initial traffic stop of Mr. Burrell. Once we receive the discovery from the prosecutors we will respond accordingly.”

Burrell had a first court appearance scheduled for Friday afternoon before Judge Peter Cahill, who presided over the 2021 trial of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd in a case that forced a national reckoning on race and policing. Cahill sentenced Chauvin to 22 ½ years in prison.

In the meantime, bail was set at $250,000 without conditions or $150,000 with conditions including no use or possession of weapons, alcohol or controlled substances.

The Dakota County Attorney’s Office will be prosecuting the case because the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has a conflict of interest. Burrell was a paid staffer on County Attorney Mary Moriarty’s 2022 campaign, and she had worked for his release when she was a public defender.

According to the complaint, a Robbinsdale police officer on routine patrol stopped Burrell after seeing his SUV cross the center line twice while going above the speed limit of 30 mph. It says the officer approached the driver’s side and when Burrell, who was alone in the car, rolled down the window, “smoke appeared to billow out of the vehicle … and the officer detected a very strong odor of burnt marijuana and what appeared to be marijuana remnants on the center console.”

The officer said he observed that Burrell’s eyes were red and glossy and his pupils were dilated, and that Burrell did poorly on a field sobriety test. It said he denied the officer permission to look in his vehicle.

“The officer advised Defendant that he would need to have a seat in his squad car, and Defendant began walking away. The officer the took Defendant by the arm to sit in his squad car and Defendant pulled away and began to actively resist the officer. After more efforts to resist, Defendant was eventually placed in handcuffs and secured in the officer’s squad car,” the complaint alleges.

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Gun and drug charges filed against Myon Burrell, sent to prison for life as teen but freed in 2020