Apirl 10: Burrell guilty of killing Tyesha Edwards -- again

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune s taff w riter
  • Updated: May 1, 2008 - 8:00 AM

As a jury did in 2003, a judge found Myon Burrell guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting of Tyesha Edwards, 11.

Guilty again.

The announcement of the second guilty verdict Wednesday in the infamous 2002 murder of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards touched off a second wave of emotions.

Two supporters of Myon Burrell swore at the judge and stormed out of the courtroom in the Hennepin County Government Center.

Tyesha's mother, Linda Longino, dropped her head into her hands and wept. By her side, ex-husband Jimmie Edwards soothingly repeated, "It's all over. It's all over."

In November 2002, a bullet went through the wall of the south Minneapolis house where Tyesha lived. She was doing her homework at the dining room table with her little sister Lakia Winborn. The girls were eager to get their work done so they might persuade Longino to take them to the mall.

The bullet hit Tyesha's heart. She collapsed and died almost instantly. Justice was not nearly as swift.

Burrell was 16 and a Rolling 30s Bloods member at the time.

A Hennepin County District jury convicted of him of the shooting in 2003, but the state Supreme Court set aside the conviction, saying a statement he made to police was inadmissible. Burrell, now 22, has remained in jail in lieu of $1 million bail.

His second trial was to start a year ago, but at the last minute, Burrell and his lawyer, Tracy Eichhorn-Hicks, asked for a bench rather than a jury trial, meaning Judge Charles Porter Jr. would decide the case himself.

Prosecutors objected and appealed the decision all the way to the state Supreme Court. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman argued that Porter had questioned the strength of the state's case and shouldn't be allowed to decide Burrell's guilt or innocence. The state Supreme Court allowed Porter to stay on.

Closing arguments were Monday. Porter announced the verdict Wednesday afternoon: guilty of first-degree murder, first-degree murder for the benefit of a gang, attempted first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder for the benefit of the gang. Burrell was found not guilty in four related drive-by counts, because Porter did not determine he was in or had immediately left a vehicle when the shooting occurred.

He issued a 16-page order outlining his decision. Among the evidence he found credible were statements Burrell himself made while in jail. Porter found credible the testimony of Family Mob gangster Kiron Williams, who is now in federal prison but got in a jail fight with Burrell in 2005. Williams mocked Burrell for "killing little kids." Burrell responded by saying the bullet was meant for Williams' "[obscenity] homeboy," Williams said.

Wednesday's verdict included convictions for the attempted murder of Timothy Oliver, a rival Gangster Disciple member who was Burrell's intended target. Oliver has since been killed, but his previous sworn statement was admitted at trial.

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Mike Furnstahl was quiet after the verdict, deferring to Freeman. But Tyesha's family had hugs and praise for him.

"Mike threw everything at them, including the kitchen sink. He wanted justice for her just as much as we did," Longino said. Jimmie Edwards said, "He gave it all he had."

Hearing the verdict a second time was an "earth-shattering" moment that sent her back to November 2002, Longino said, but now it's a new beginning. "We're ready to start, get our lives back on track," she said. The time between trials was life in limbo, she said. "You're walking around in a fog."

Longino has often taken off work to sit vigil at the trial, as has her husband, Leonard Winborn. Their daughter Lakia testified at both trials and has been there many days, along with Longino's mother and her father. After the verdict Lakia held up a giant photo of Tyesha with Jimmie Edwards, Tyesha's younger brother.

Freeman said the case was tough both times. At the courthouse, the guilty verdict was never viewed as a lock; some even considered it a long shot.

Tensions have been high between Tyesha's family and Burrell's family and friends. Several deputies and seven homicide detectives were in the room for the reading -- an indication of the high stakes.

On Thursday, prosecutors will ask for an enhanced sentence for Burrell. Currently, he could be sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 30 years. Freeman said they will ask for life without the possibility of parole. Sentencing has not been scheduled.

Eichhorn-Hicks said he doesn't agree with the verdict, but respects it. "I just don't think he did it," he said. "Here's a young man that's been in jail since he was 16 and who ... will basically spend the rest of his life in jail for something he did not do."

Eichhorn-Hicks did not rule out another appeal on his client's behalf.

Burrell was one of three men charged in the case. The other two pleaded guilty. Burrell rejected a plea agreement.

Staff writers David Chanen and Terry Collins contributed to this report. Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747

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