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Minnesotan serving life sentence for murder of 84-year-old shopkeeper should be exonerated, review board says

Morning headlines from June 6, 2024
Morning headlines from June 6, 2024 03:51

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Conviction Review Board (MCRB) says a man who has been serving a life sentence for a quarter century should be exonerated, and a petition filed in Aitkin County aims to do that. 

Centurion Ministries and the Great North Innocence Project (GNIP) filed the petition on Wednesday on behalf of Brian Pippitt, who was convicted of murder in 1998 in the brutal killing of 84-year-old Evelyn Malin.

The backbone of the more than 400-page filing is information from the two-year investigation by the MCRB, a partnership between the Minnesota Attorney General's Office and the GNIP.

Malin's body was found in her residence attached to her business, the Dollar Lake Store in McGregor.

Investigators now say the man who provided the key testimony that led to Pippitt's conviction recanted his story. According to details in the petition, Raymond Misquadace claims he was coerced by police to provide false details, and he only testified after striking a plea deal that would wipe away unrelated felony charges in exchange for a manslaughter sentence of less than five years.

Misquadace told jurors he broke into Malin's store with Pippitt and two other men, and Pippitt killed her. A crime scene investigator with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension also testified the men got into the building through a window and left through the front door, the petition states.

Brian Pippitt Centurion Ministries

New evidence shows the store was never broken into, nothing was stolen and the front door was deadbolted shut, according to the petition. Evidence regarding the two other suspects was never presented at Pippitt's trial. One of the men was acquitted and the other also served less than five years in prison.  

A police informant who testified Misquadace told him about the killing while in prison together is also said to have recanted.

"Mr. Pippitt has been wrongly incarcerated for 25 years," said Centurion Ministries attorney Jim Cousins. "It is an unconscionable injustice that anyone would now block his immediate release."

Cousins says Pippitt's case was also reevaluated by the students in a Mitchell Hamline Law School clinic class, who also supported his exoneration.

The groups filed a petition with the Aitkin County Attorney's Office seeking post-conviction relief for Pippitt. They say the attorney's office has 20 days to respond. Pippitt is currently in Faribault prison.

Minnesota's Conviction Review Unit was founded by the state attorney general's office in 2021. As of December 2023, the office says one in 10 Minnesota inmates have applied to have their cases reviewed.

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