Amy Klobuchar was among the chorus of voices demanding justice for the unarmed Black man who a Minneapolis police officer appears to kill on a video that went viral shortly after the incident on Monday.
The current Minnesota senator and potential vice presidential candidate echoed the sentiments of pretty much everyone else who watched the viral video showing Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin applying what looked to be lethal pressure with his knee on George Floyd to pin down the man who was suspected of committing forgery. Floyd could be heard repeating that he couldn’t breathe while Chauvin’s partner refused to intervene, cellphone cameras were steadily recording and bystander witnesses told both officers they were killing him.
Klobuchar decried in a statement that “another horrifying and gutwrenching instance of an African American man dying,” she said in part without making a single mention of law enforcement’s role in the killing. But it was the last part of her statement that may have raised some eyebrows:
“There needs to be a thorough outside investigation into what occurred, and those involved in this incident must be held accountable. Justice must be served for this man and his family, justice must be served for our community, and justice must be served for our country.”
Civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt challenged Klobuchar in a tweet to further explain that last part of her statement.
It wasn’t too long ago when Klobuchar was the lead legal decision-maker for Minneapolis and served as the Hennepin County attorney from 1998 to 2006. But her tenure as the local prosecutor was far from stellar when it came to her Black and brown constituents. One instance, in particular, has continued to haunt her in the senate as she tried to make a case to be Joe Biden‘s running mate. Ironically, in that case, Klobuchar was accused of not even being remotely interested in working for the same “accountability” and “justice” that she has called for in Floyd’s death.
Myon Burrell, one of the Black men who Klobuchar prosecuted, is serving a life sentence for killing an 11-year-old girl when he was 16 in 2002. He has maintained his innocence and claims Klobuchar “gave the police free rein and just said, ‘bring me back a conviction, secure me a conviction’ and that’s what they did, by any means necessary.” During an interview back in February, Burrell said he holds Klobuchar as the “source of everything that happened, with her charging me.”
An Associated Press investigation into Burrell’s case determined that his conviction was “flawed,” causing a number of groups, including the Minneapolis NAACP, to demand Klobuchar suspend her presidential campaign, which she did end in March.
At the time of the murder investigation, the lead homicide detective offered “major dollars” for names while evidence was limited. There were no fingerprints, no gun, nor any DNA. Key evidence that could have helped the case had gone missing or was never obtained, including a convenience store surveillance tape that Burrell says would have cleared his name. Even Burrell’s co-defendants have admitted their part in Tyesha Edwards’ death, saying Burrell wasn’t even present. For years, one in particular — Ike Tyson — said that he was actually the person who pulled the trigger. Authorities wouldn’t believe him because he gave contradicting accounts earlier in the investigation, but Tyson says he was just trying to get the cops off his back.
When questioned by The Associated Press, a Klobuchar campaign spokesperson said Burrell was tried and convicted of Tyesha’s murder twice, and the second trial went down when Klobuchar was no longer the Hennepin County Attorney. If new evidence surfaced, she said, it should be immediately looked over by the court.
Klobuchar doubled down her stance in a statement to CNN:
“As I’ve said before, this case should be reviewed immediately. This was about an 11-year-old girl, Tyesha Edwards, who was killed while she was sitting at her kitchen table doing her homework. And as a prosecutor, our job is to convict the guilty and protect the innocent. So if any evidence was not put forward or was not appropriately investigated or if new evidence has emerged that should have been discovered at the time, it must be reviewed.”
When Burrell was asked by ABC News what he thought about the Associated Press report, he said he cried when he read it. “Because all of these years I’ve been in here and I’ve been screaming and I’ve been telling people that I’m innocent and I’m not supposed to be here but my voice was never heard,” he said.
On top of that, a report from Minnesota Public (MPR) radio published last year claimed that Klobuchar “didn’t prosecute controversial police killings or brutality cases as a county prosecutor.” The evidence laid out in the report is damning for any claims of social justice activism or awareness made by Klobuchar. Over her tenure as Hennepin County attorney, she declined to criminally charge any members of law enforcement who were involved in the 29 civilian deaths that happened over eight years beginning in 1999, when Klobuchar took office.
The MPR report cited on instance when the “mother of a black teenager who was shot and killed by police in 2004 begged Klobuchar to file charges against the officer instead of presenting the case to a grand jury.” The plea did not get a direct response from Klobuchar, who referred the case to a grand jury that decided the shooting was legal. The report cites other instances of Klobuchar “routinely” doing the same in other similar cases.
Still, Klobuchar has touted her record with African Americans while she was Hennepin County attorney. She has repeatedly pointed to data that she says shows “there was a 65 percent decrease in incarceration of African Americans when you go from the beginning of my term to the end.” However, the Washington Post found those claims to be faulty because of incorrect data compiled by the Vera Institute of Justice, which ultimately admitted that “no meaningful statements about the number of black people in jail in Hennepin County can be made for the time Klobuchar was DA.”