Everyone already forgot about Klobmentum—Senator Amy Klobuchar’s brief uptick in a few Democratic primary polls following a solid debate performance and a surprising third place win in New Hampshire. But the White House hopeful’s path to victory is virtually non-existent, and it isn’t helped by unearthed information about Klobuchar’s past as the County Attorney of Hennepin County, Minnesota. Specifically, her office’s involvement in the life imprisonment of Myon Burrell, a black teenager who was convicted of killing an 11-year-old girl in 2002 based on a mountain of dodgy evidence.
Dozens of protesters flooded a Klobuchar rally in the senator’s home state Sunday, demanding Burrell’s release. The protesters even made their way on stage, using megaphones to chant “Klobuchar has got to go” and “Black lives matter” and “Free Myon.” Klobuchar supporters attempted to drown out the protesters from time to time, but they were no match. The rally was meant to start at 8 p.m. After a 40-minute delay, the rally was canceled.
Klobuchar’s campaign manager, Justin Buoen, told reporters that the campaign initially agreed with the organizers to meet with Klobuchar onsite.
“[Klobuchar] was in the room, ready to meet with them, and then [the protesters] changed the terms and decided they didn’t want to meet with her,” Buoen said, adding that he was disappointed by the outcome. A reporter challenged Buoen’s claim, saying that organizers insist that it was the Klobuchar camp that backed out of the arrangement. Additionally, the Star Tribune reported that, according to protest leaders, the Klobuchar campaign, “would not meet their demand to publicly acknowledge Burrell during the rally.”
Klobuchar was successfully de-platformed, and a damning Associated Press report from late January detailing the inconsistencies in Myon Burrell’s helped spark the evening’s protest.
According to the AP, the evidence against Burrell relied heavily on the inconsistent statements from Burrell’s rival and “jailhouse snitches” who later recanted or said they were coached or coerced by police. There were no eyewitnesses, DNA evidence, gun, or fingerprints that put Burrell at the scene of the crime, and other evidence—including surveillance tape—conveniently went missing or were never actively pursued. Burrell’s co-defendants have admitted having been involved in the shooting that killed Tyesha Edwards—one of them even insist that they, in fact, pulled the trigger—and maintain that Burrell wasn’t even there. But Burrell, now 33 years old, remains at Minnesota’s Stillwater Correctional Facility, where he maintains his innocence. He has rejected all plea deals.
In a recent ABC News interview, Burrell accused Klobuchar of giving the police “free reign” and said she cared more about a conviction than evidence. He said she is the “source of everything that happened.”
“That’s what the district attorney’s job is, is to either charge or not charge,” Burrell said. “You never took the time to look into this case. You never took the time to go and actually see, is this true or is this false?”
Klobuchar has attempted to present herself as an ally to the Burrell case, insisting in multiple interviews that all new evidence must be reviewed immediately. But the old evidence was already far too weak to rely on to subject a teen to a life sentence. And when Klobuchar is pressed on that point, she tends to make excuses: Reminding voters that Burrell was tried and convicted of the murder twice, the second occurring when Klobuchar was no longer the County Attorney; reiterating the tragic nature of Edwards’s death; rattling off the number of cases her office had per year; touting the 12 percent decrease in black incarceration rates during her tenure as Minnesota’s top prosecutor.
And failing that, Klobuchar has insisted that, despite the negative connotations of being “tough on crime,” she was merely responding to the needs of the black community. Klobuchar has long touted the justice served in the murder of Edwards—who was killed by a stray bullet as she was doing homework at her dining room table—as an example of her commitment to that community and an example of her dedication to curtailing gun violence. Indeed, “tough” approaches to crime and its alleged offenders was a bipartisan and multiracial offensive, but the needs of black people who were disproportionately impacted by violence were often more nuanced than a demand for more imprisoned teens, and a mainstreaming of skepticism in police accountability and the racist criminal justice system has made the “tough on crime” ethos of the ‘90s and 2000s look positively draconian.
Klobuchar—like countless other politicians, some of whom are also currently vying to become the next President of the United States—were complicit in this culture. What Burrell, his communities, and many voters want from Klobuchar is some accountability and an apology, not excuses.