Judge says gun found in car of Myon Burrell, sentenced to life as teen, can be evidence in new case

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A judge ruled that the arrest of a Minnesota man on a gun charge was justified in a case that has drawn attention because he was sentenced to life in prison as a teen in an high-profile murder case and spent 18 years in prison before his sentence was commuted.

Myon Burrell was charged after police in the Minneapolis suburb of Robbinsdale said they found a handgun and drugs during the stop Aug. 29.

The defense argued at a hearing in February that the stop lacked probable cause and that the gun and drugs should therefore be excluded.

In a ruling this week, Judge Peter Cahill found the testimony of the arresting officer credible, and said he would allow the gun and drugs as evidence. The officer testified that he saw Burrell driving erratically, and that when he stopped Burrell, smoke came out of the window and that he smelled a strong odor of burnt marijuana. Burrell failed field sobriety tests to determine whether he was driving under the influence, the judge noted.

The search turned up a handgun and pills, some of which field tested positive for methamphetamine and ecstasy. Burrell was charged with possession of a firearm by an ineligible person because of his prior felony conviction, and possession of a controlled substance.

Defense attorneys disputed the officer's testimony that Burrell was driving erratically and that he saw smoke, which was not visible on body camera video. They said Burrell had smoked marijuana in the vehicle a day earlier, but not the day of the stop. They argued the results of the search were therefore “fruit of the poisonous tree” and inadmissible.

Burrell was convicted earlier in the 2008 death of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards, a Minneapolis girl who was hit by a stray bullet. Burrell was 16 at the time of the slaying and was sentenced to life. He maintained his innocence. The Associated Press and APM Reports in 2020 uncovered new evidence and serious flaws in that investigation, ultimately leading to the creation of an independent legal panel to review the case.

That led the state pardons board to commute Burrell’s sentence after he had spent more than half his life in prison. However, his pardon request was denied so his conviction for first-degree murder remained on his record, making it still illegal for him to have a gun.

Burrell's next pretrial hearing is set for May 16.