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State v. Burrell

May 19, 2005



District court erred by concluding that the state proved by a fair preponderance of the evidence that a 16-year-old defendant who asked for his mother 3 times before receiving a Miranda warning and 10 times afterward made a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary Miranda waiver.

Allowing the jury to view a videotape of an interrogation that followed an ineffective Miranda waiver was prejudicial error.

State bears the burden of proving that hearsay evidence does not violate a defendant's Sixth Amendment confrontation rights as defined in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), and upon receiving such evidence, the district court must weigh all relevant factors to determine whether incriminating comments from a deceased person made to police at a police station are admissible hearsay.

District court abused its discretion by permitting an expert witness to vouch for another witness's truthfulness.

District court must carefully scrutinize expert testimony from a Gang Strike Force police officer to ensure that it complies with directives in State v. DeShay, 669 N.W.2d 878 (Minn. 2003), and State v. Lopez-Rios, 669 N.W.2d 603 (Minn. 2003).

District court did not abuse its discretion in excluding evidence from jail inmates and a jail visitor who purportedly heard a co-defendant exonerate the defendant because the defendant failed to provide sufficient indicia of the statements' reliability.

District court erred by not performing an independent in camera review of circumstances surrounding plea negotiations with co-defendants that may have deprived the defendant of his due process rights.

Reversed and remanded.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anderson, Paul H., Justice.

Hennepin County Anderson, Paul H., J.

Concurring/Dissenting, Hanson and Anderson, Russell A., JJ.

Took no part, Anderson, G. Barry, J.

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.


This appeal results from the death in 2002 of Tyesha Edwards, 11, who died from a stray bullet fired during an apparent gang feud. Two persons pleaded guilty in connection with the crime. A third, appellant Myon Demarlo Burrell, was found guilty of Tyesha's murder and the attempted murder of Timothy Oliver, the apparent target of the shooting.

Burrell, a minor when the shooting took place, claims that the district court committed prejudicial error when it (1) found his Miranda waiver valid even though the police lied to him and denied him access to speak to his mother despite repeated requests before and after receiving his Miranda warning, (2) denied his request to cross-examine the police officers who interrogated him about specific false statements they made to him during the interrogation, (3) prevented him from exercising his constitutional right to confront a witness against him by admitting a pretrial statement his mother made to police before she died, (4) permitted a psychiatrist to vouch for a prosecution witness's truthfulness, (5) admitted expert testimony about criminal gangs, (6) refused to admit testimony from jail inmates who purportedly heard a non-testifying co-defendant confess to firing the fatal shot and state that Burrell had not been present at the shooting, (7) denied his request to compel the discovery of two co-defendants' plea negotiations, and (8) imposed a sentence that constitutes an unsupported departure from the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines' presumptive sentence. We conclude that several errors occurred during Burrell's trial, and therefore reverse and grant a new trial.

The Crime and Investigation

At around 3:00 p.m. on November 22, 2002, Tyesha Edwards was with her younger sister, Lakia, doing homework and watching television inside her South Minneapolis home when she was struck in the chest by a bullet. Lakia tried to call 911, but the phone did not work, so she sought help from the next-door neighbors. Neighbor Tinicia Longs ran to the girls' home and found Tyesha on the dining room floor. Longs ran to get her phone and then, with her husband, returned to the girls' home, where she dialed 911. Longs and her husband attempted to comfort Tyesha until she lost consciousness. Tyesha was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where she was pronounced dead.

The first officers on the scene found a bullet hole in the wall of the home, behind a dining room chair. Subsequent investigation revealed that the bullet was fired from outside the home and had traveled from southwest to northeast. Southwest of the home, officers found seven spent shell casings and a bullet lodged in the porch rail of another home. Two days later, Tyesha's parents found a bullet hole in Tyesha's bedroom wall and a bullet nearby.

After interviewing witnesses, police learned that a teenager named Timothy Oliver was linked to the crime. On November 25, 2002, Oliver called the lead investigator in the case, saying that he delayed coming forward because he was afraid that someone was trying to kill him. Later that afternoon, police detained Oliver in connection with a separate shooting. Investigators in Tyesha's case interviewed Oliver and showed him two photographic lineups, each containing photographs of six males of similar race and age. From the lineups, Oliver identified Hans Williams and Ike Tyson as being involved in Tyesha's shooting, but Oliver said that a 15-to 17-year-old male named "Skits" was the shooter.

Police officers subsequently learned that "Skits" was Myon Burrell, a 16-year-old who grew up in Minneapolis and had moved with his mother to Bemidji, Minnesota. Early on November 26, 2002, Oliver selected Burrell's photograph from a third photographic lineup.

Shortly before noon on November 26, the Minneapolis police arrested Burrell in South Minneapolis. Burrell was brought to a police department interrogation room, where a video camera recorded his meeting with police investigators. The interview videotape begins with Burrell alone in an interrogation room, seated with his hands handcuffed behind his back. After about eight minutes, a police officer opened the door, but did not say anything or immediately enter the room. Almost a minute later, Burrell said to the officer: "Sir, can I call my mom now please?" The officer responded that Burrell will "have to wait." Burrell answered in the affirmative when the officer asked whether he had been in trouble before. Burrell then said: "So I don't get to talk to my mom before I get to talk to (inaudible)?" The officer responded that Burrell would "have to talk to the investigator," and then left Burrell alone, still handcuffed.

Twelve minutes later, the lead police investigator on Tyesha's homicide entered the room with another investigator. They removed Burrell's handcuffs, introduced themselves, informed him that they were "looking at that little girl that got shot," and asked Burrell his age. Burrell responded that he was 16. The lead investigator then told Burrell that "last night we uh, we talked with Hans and Ike and those guys," and that "they're putting you in the middle of some stuff," and that "they're hooking you into this stuff." Burrell responded by stating that he did not "even mess with Ike or Hans." The investigator then indicated that Williams and Tyson were "helping themselves," and that Burrell needed to "take care of yourself so you can be there for your baby in a year, five years, ten years." Shortly thereafter, the following exchange took place:

Lead investigator: But um, uh first of all uh what we need to do uh first okay, I want, I want to hear your side of it okay?

Burrell: Yeah.

Lead investigator: And, and let me know if those guys are full of baloney or let me know if they hooked you into something you didn't want to be in, okay?

Burrell: All right. (Inaudible)

Lead investigator: Okay, okay, look--

Burrell: What me being a juvenile interrogation, don't I get to um, can I call my mother cause (inaudible) supposed to be going (inaudible) at 12 o'clock.

Lead investigator: Yeah have you ever been, have you ever been arrested in Minnesota before? Or hauled in in Minnesota, ever?

Burrell indicated that he had a misdemeanor arrest on his record.

Then this exchange occurred:

Lead investigator: Okay. In Minnesota what we're gonna do is uh, right here and right now, is we're gonna talk to you 'cause your mom wasn't with ya these last couple days. Ya know what I mean?

Burrell: Yes, my mom (inaudible).

The investigator responded that "we'll go talk to her too," but that first Burrell was to be given an opportunity to "let us know your side." Seven more exchanges between the investigators and Burrell followed, and then the lead investigator mentioned the Miranda warning. The investigator then administered the Miranda warning, inquiring after each part to ensure that Burrell understood each of his rights. Burrell generally indicated comprehension, responding that he "[didn't] have to say anything if I don't want to," that "if I say anything you can bring it up in court," and that, if he could not afford an attorney, the attorney who would be provided to him is called a "public defender." After the warning was complete, Burrell was asked whether he understood "each of those rights." Burrell uttered something unintelligible and nodded his head up and down. The investigator then asked Burrell whether he wanted to "tell us your side."

Burrell responded that he "didn't know anything about what happened to that little girl or anything," and that he and his mother had arrived in the Twin Cities shortly after dark on Saturday, November 23--the day after Tyesha was shot. Burrell said he had slept at his brother's home on Saturday night, and early Sunday morning had taken a bus to the Mall of America in Bloomington, where he bought new clothes at about 6:45 a.m. and then saw a movie. About 30 minutes later, Burrell was informed that Mall of America stores are not open at 6:45 on a Sunday morning, that he was getting "caught up in your lies," and that he was under arrest for first-degree murder.

Burrell asked to speak with his mother 10 times after receiving his Miranda warning, and each time the request was denied. This exchange occurred a little over an hour into the interrogation:

Lead investigator: And it was just you and your mom?

Burrell: Can I talk to my mom now?

Lead investigator: It was just you and your mom in the car?

Burrell: It was just me and my mom. But can I talk to my mom now?

Lead investigator: Um, not yet. Not yet. Uh, when we're finished here we'll let you talk to her.

During the interrogation, Burrell's mother, Marketta Burrell,had arrived at the police station to inquire about the circumstances of his arrest. She was taken to a separate interrogation room where she told an investigator that she and her son lived in Bemidji and that a Bloods gang member who was a "bad influence" had been calling, urging Burrell to come to Minneapolis. She also told the investigator that her son's street name was "Skits," that she and Burrell had arrived in Minneapolis around 7:00 p.m. the previous Thursday--the day before Tyesha was shot--and that she did not know where her son was between Thursday evening and the following Monday. The record indicates that the conversation was recorded electronically, but that Marketta Burrell was not under arrest.

The investigator who had interviewed Marketta Burrell then resumed Myon Burrell's interrogation, informing Burrell that his mother, whom the investigator described as a "Christian lady [who] * * * wouldn't lie to me," said they had arrived in Minneapolis on Thursday, not Saturday. Burrell denied arriving on Thursday, but said "It was Friday or Saturday. Saturday or Friday, I don't know, I, I think it was Friday or Saturday." Soon thereafter, Burrell said: "It would have been on Friday or Saturday. Okay? * * * Was it on Thursday? Actually it was on Thursday."

After an additional 30 minutes of interrogation, Burrell said: "I really want to talk to my mom, you understand that?" The investigator replied: "Yeah, we'll, we'll arrange that." The interrogation resumed, and three minutes later this exchange took place:

Burrell: Can I go and get my phone call to my mom (inaudible)?

Investigator: We'll let you meet, we'll let you talk to your mom here.

Burrell: She's here?

Investigator: Yes.

Burrell: All right.

Investigator: We'll let you, we'll let you talk to your mom here, but I want to make sure that one thing.

Burrell: Hmm?

Investigator: That everything ...

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