The issue with continuing to bring up aspects of your past as evidence of your current or future capabilities is that, inevitably, people are going to scrutinize that past and then expect you to be accountable for it.
It might not be a particularly profound lesson, but it is one Amy Klobuchar is learning with haste this week, just as the Iowa caucuses are set to take place and determine which Democrat Iowans will support in the primary.
Klobuchar, who is currently campaigning Iowa, has been called on by the Minneapolis NAACP and Black Lives Matter Twin Cities, as well as other organizations, to suspend her campaign for president due to new information that has surfaced from a 2002 case which resulted in a life sentence for a then 16-year-old Myon Burrell, while Klobuchar was the Hennepin County attorney.
Klobuchar has frequently cited the case, both in her current bid for the Democratic nomination and in her campaign for Senate, as evidence of her stance on gun control and her commitment to seeking justice, particularly on behalf of African American communities. Tyesha Edwards, the 11-year-old victim in the case who was struck and killed by a stray bullet, was black.
Klobuchar’s portrayal of the case seemed to be an easy talking point. A young black girl was killed because of gun violence, and as County attorney, Klobuchar helped to secure justice. However, after an Associated Press report that notes cash was offered to witnesses in exchange for information and that reduced sentences were offered to those who testified, even the jury foreman said he has regrets about the outcome.
“Maybe we should have taken more time,” he told the AP, “Maybe we should have said we couldn’t decide.”
Those also aren’t the only new details that have come to light since Burrell’s conviction. Ike Tyson, one of Burrell’s co-defendants, has admitted to firing the gun that killed Tyesha, and he along with another person on the scene have since said Burrell wasn’t even there when it all went down.
For his part, Burrell has maintained his innocence, and rejected all plea deals, while his lawyer, Daniel Guerrero, regarding Klobuchar’s involvement told the New York Times, “I don’t think she had much to do with the case,” before continuing, “I wish she would stop citing the Edwards case as an example of her being aggressive prosecutor. Though certainly tragic that an 11-year-old girl died, it’s equally as bad that a 16-year-old boy was likely wrongfully convicted and sentenced to a life term in the face of an aggressive and often short-sighted prosecution.”
Meanwhile, Klobuchar told New Hampshire Public Radio, “If there is new evidence this should be reviewed immediately because the job of the prosecutor is to convict the guilty and protect the innocent.”
Whatever the outcome of the AP report, it’s perhaps time for Klobuchar to retire the story of Burrell’s conviction as one that speaks to her dedication to justice and safety for everyone, particularly if those claims were on shaky grounds to begin with.