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Zaria McKeever






Zaria, my baby sister, meant everything to me! She was my world; so precious and invaluable. With her gone every day feels incomplete. It's unreal and unfair. Having Zanay, Zaria's daughter, who I am now raising, is a piece of her, but looking in her eyes makes me sad that she has to suffer each day because of the decision Mary Moriarty has made. 


Our family doesn't sleep at night and they fear they will end up like Zaria. Being out in public, I am afraid I will encounter my sister's killers and feel helpless as the county attorney failed us.


The future of my community is bleak if we are accepting that murderers will walk free under Mary Moriarity watch. She must be recalled.

Zaria's Story

On November 8, 2022, Zaria McKeever was murdered. Two juveniles broke into her boyfriend’s apartment and shot her five times, including once in the head at close range. This crime was orchestrated by Zaria’s jealous ex-boyfriend, Erick Haynes. In the days leading up to and in the hours before the murder, Erick and the juveniles stalked Zaria. Erick had also threatened to physically harm Zaria's new boyfriend and bragged the two juveniles would do it for him. All three were charged for their role in Zaria's murder, and motions to certify the juveniles to adult court were filed.  

Since the start of the cases regarding the juveniles, the prosecutors made promises that led Zaria's family to believe the county attorney was pursuing adult certification. While the motions were filed under Moriarty's predecessor, all substantive hearings on the motions--including testimony in pursuit of those motions--occurred while Moriarty was in office. In fact, the State had rested on both of the juveniles’ cases.


Then, February 22, 2023, Moriarty's appointee, Sarah Davis, and other members of the county attorney's office, met with Zaria's family. Davis told Zaria's family that county attorney was reversing course, and the two juveniles, including the shooter, would be given a juvenile disposition. The juveniles would serve, at most, two years in prison at Red Wing. Davis told Zaria's family that the juvenile disposition was not up for discussion. The decision had already been made, no matter what Zaria's family said. One of the original prosecutors was not present for this meeting because she had removed herself due to ethical concerns. 

And rightfully so, because under Minnesota Statute Section 611A.02, subdivision 2(5), a victim of a crime has the right to participate in the prosecution process. Zaria's family did not get a chance to participate in the prosecution because the jurisdictional disposition was made without their input or care for their input. Furthermore, Moriarty, Davis, and all prosecutors on the case are bound by Rule 4.1 of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct, which requires attorneys to not knowingly make a false statement of fact or law. The prosecutors presented multiple days of testimony to the court and had spoken to the victim’s family in pursuit of certification, it should have been impossible for them to ethically change course on the case.


Zaria's family again made their plea to stop such an abrupt change to Moriarty herself. On March 3, 2023, Zaria's family met with Moriarty who told them, “The criminal justice system has not been fair to black men and boys.” These comments about the murderers of their daughter--a black women--are insulting. How about the silencing of and structural biases against black women? What about these devastating effects? Black women and girls are seldom seen as victims. Instead, they are seen as deserving of harm or unable to be harmed. This perpetuates a long legacy of impunity for violence against black women, girls, and non-binary people.


Not once during this meeting did Moriarty say Zaria’s name. Instead, she gave and continues to give more attention, comfort, and empathy to the juveniles who stalked and murdered Zaria. The system has failed Zaria, a black woman who was killed by black juveniles. The message being sent by Moriarty to Zaria's family and the community is the murderers' future lives matter more than Zaria's life.  Even if the juveniles were sentenced to the 40-year statutory maximum sentence, which would be unlikely given Minnesota sentencing laws, they would still be young men when they were released from prison. They would have a future life. Zaria, however, has no future. Hers was taken. Her daughter's future irreparably harmed. Punishment for taking a life is not about retribution. It is about atonement and acknowledgment. An acknowledgment that Zaria McKeever's life mattered.

Throughout the last several months, Moriarty, in response to the backlash for her decision regarding Zaria's murderers, has repeatedly cited science as one of the leading reasons behind lighter sentences for juvenile murderers. In an internal memo, Sarah Davis discussed a framework that focused solely on that factor:


  • Case Analysis and Decision-Making Framework: 

  • The science is clear that human brains are generally not fully formed until the mid 20s. Among that last parts of the brain to fully develop is the pre-frontal cortex – the area of the brain that impacts many important functions, including: 

  • Impulsivity 

  • Ability to consider risk and consequences 

  • Empathy and 

  • Susceptibility to peer pressure. 

  • This is important to our work because these functions significantly impact youth behavior and decision making, and because a youth’s developing brain and malleability present a unique opportunity for positive change. The point of citing these scientific realities is not to suggest that there should be no accountability when a child engages in behavior that endangers people or causes harm. “Treating kids as kids” means understanding the science and engaging in practices and interventions that leverage the science to impact behavior.

Yet, if you are going to make the argument of science and law, then it is to solely focus on the evidence and the standards of certainty. Law is not science. The process of lawmaking/interpretation of legal rules has nothing in common with science. The first one deals with the normative sphere ("obligation") and the second one with the descriptive sphere (“truth”). It is Moriarty's obligation to uphold the law, protect public safety, and support victims and the community. She has failed every step of the way. 

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