By Tommy Nguyen
MINNEAPOLIS – A national criminal reform group is criticizing Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz for intervening in a murder case, reassigning it from newly-elected Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty—who had moved to send teens to juvenile detention, not prison—to Attorney General Keith Ellison.
Ellison announced Thursday he asked the governor to assign his office the case involving the murder of Zaria McKeever, 23, who investigators say was shot multiple times by a teenager last November inside Brooklyn Park.
Two brothers, ages 15 and 17, have been charged in her death, while 23-year-old Erick Haynes, the victim’s ex-boyfriend, is charged with second-degree murder for allegedly ordering the teens to do it.
County Attorney Moriarty helped put together a plea deal that would have sent the boys to juvenile detention instead of prison. The AG, however, said that was the wrong call.
“What happened to Zaria McKeever is an absolute tragedy. No one—not the Attorney General and certainly not County Attorney Moriarty—would disagree with that. Her [McKeever] loved ones are in mourning, and nothing will ever fully heal their wounds,” said Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky.
Krinsky stressed the importance of “allowing the criminal legal process to operate as intended, guided by chief prosecutors elected by their community to reflect the vision for justice that those voters embrace. State leaders overriding a local prosecutor’s authority is a “dangerous infringement on local control and concerning intrusion on the will of the voters.”
Krinsky said she is also frustrated by the way prosecutorial discretion is usurped “when reform-minded prosecutors are investing in evidence-backed reforms that align with data and brain science and have been shown to reduce future victimization.”
“Accountability is possible without pursuing the harshest penalties, especially when we’re talking about children, who have an immense capacity for growth,” she argued.
“We hope more elected leaders will come to see that we all benefit when we stop relying on tough-on-crime responses and instead embrace new approaches that serve the interests of justice and public safety,” added Krinsky.