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MN man’s 2001 murder conviction should be overturned, officials say

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A man who was convicted of murder in 2001 should be exonerated, a special unit of the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office said Thursday, saying prosecutors used shoddy legal tactics and unreliable evidence to secure a conviction in the 1998 killing of an 84-year-old storekeeper.

Brian Pippitt, 62, has been serving a life sentence for the murder of Evelyn Malin in east Minnesota’s Aitkin County. In a lengthy report and announcement, the Conviction Review Unit of the state Attorney General’s Office said Pippitt’s conviction was built on flawed legal work.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said his office’s team “conducted a careful, lengthy, objective review of the case,” and that he supported the findings.

“No person or community is safer, and justice is not served, when an innocent person is convicted and imprisoned,” he said.

The Attorney General’s Office said Pippitt’s case marks the first time the special unit has recommended the full exoneration of an incarcerated person.

Pippitt’s attorneys filed a petition Wednesday for post-conviction release in Aitkin County District Court. The filing requests that Pippitt’s conviction be vacated and the charges against him dismissed.

James Cousins, an attorney with Centurion, a nonprofit that works to free innocent people from prison, started working on Pippitt’s case in 2015. He submitted an application on behalf of Pippitt to the Conviction Review Unit, which was created in 2021 to remedy potentially wrongful convictions.

“Brian Pippitt had nothing to do with this murder, he wasn’t involved at all. And he’s been wrongly incarcerated for 25 years,” Cousins said. “This is just a gross injustice that continues every day.”

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