NEW YORK, N.Y. – Citing a recent Associated Press investigation, the foreman of the jury that sent a Minnesota teen away for life in the 2002 death of an 11-year-old girl said Friday he regrets voting to convict.
“I do feel badly,” jury foreman Joe McLean told the AP. “I feel, for lack of a better word, that we were misled.”
“Maybe we should have taken more time,” he added. “Maybe we should have said we couldn’t decide.”
No gun, fingerprints or DNA were ever recovered, and the 2003 trial of Myon Burrell centered on the testimony of one teen rival who offered conflicting stories when identifying the triggerman, who was standing 120 feet away, mostly behind a wall.
McLean said he and other jurors did the best they could with the evidence presented and were unaware of information turned up in the AP review of the case -- in part because his co-defendants were not allowed to take the stand. Both have since said Burrell was not even on the scene. One of them, Ike Tyson, admits to being the shooter.
“Now there are statements from Ike Tyson saying he did the shooting. We didn’t have that then,” McLean said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who led the Hennepin County Attorney’s office at the time Tyesha Edward was felled by a stray bullet, was asked about the case while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in New Hampshire. She has cited the case repeatedly during her political career, including during her 2006 campaign for the U.S. Senate, and more recently in a Democratic candidates’ debate.
“If there is new evidence,” Klobuchar told New Hampshire Public Radio, “this should be reviewed immediately because the job of the prosecutor is to convict the guilty and protect the innocent.”
Burrell was tried and convicted of Tyesha’s murder twice, and the second trial occurred when Klobuchar was no longer the Hennepin County attorney. McLean was the foreman in the first trial.
In his interview with the AP, McLean recalled the trial and said Burrell’s defense attorney seemed inexperienced and unable to mount an aggressive defense.
“He was in the deep end and the judge was throwing him bricks,” McLean said. “I thought that from the get-go this kid’s not got a decent attorney.”
Paul Fedor, a juror who held out against a guilty verdict longer than any of the others, told AP there were many aspects of the trial that troubled him.
Although jurors never visited the scene of the shooting, he said, he found it difficult to believe that Burrell, who is 5-foot-3, could have fired a handgun over a 5-foot wall, as prosecutors claimed.
But Fedor said he finally “collapsed.”
“I held as long as I could,” he said. “It’s weird. You think you can do it, you can hold on, but you’ve never been in that situation.”
After the verdict was read, Fedor addressed reporters and said he felt pressured to convict.
McLean said that after jurors agreed on a verdict, he went into a jury restroom and vomited.
“He was a 16-year-old boy and I was a pretty newly minted dad at that time,” he said. “Based on our conviction, there was a real possibility that he was going to go to jail for the rest of his life. I was struck by the gravity of that.”
McLean’s comments followed a Wednesday rally of community activists at the Government Center in downtown Minneapolis where they demanded Klobuchar join with police and prosecutors to re-examine the case, in light of the AP’s findings.
The AP examined thousands of pages of court documents and archival video that showed police investigators offered cash to potential witnesses in exchange for information. In addition, they relied on the testimony of jail house snitches who received reduced sentences in exchange, and later recanted their testimony.
At the end of the interview, McLean asked an AP reporter to deliver a message to Burrell: “Tell him that I’m sorry,” he said. “I tried to do my best. I kind of think in retrospect I failed.”
Robin McDowell reported from Minneapolis.