New Trial Granted for Wisconsin Innocence Project Client

Contact: Professor Ion Meyn, 608-772-6396, or Professor Peter Moreno, 608-628-8742,

After years of investigation, the discovery of new evidence, and multiple hearings, the motion for a new trial for Seneca Malone was granted on Friday, November 16, 2012 by Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge David Borowski. 

Malone was represented by the Wisconsin Innocence Project (WIP), a clinic at the University of Wisconsin Law School, that investigates and litigates viable claims of innocence on behalf of inmates and seeks to remedy the causes of wrongful convictions. Law students, under the supervision of Assistant Clinical Professors Ion Meyn and Peter Moreno, investigated and litigated Malone’s claims for relief.

In August 2008, a jury convicted Malone for the death of Ricardo Mora. Mora was gunned down on the streets of Milwaukee on December 16, 2005. At trial, the State's case was based almost entirely on the statement of a man who told police he saw Malone shoot the victim. Malone was sentenced to life in prison. At sentencing, Malone expressed sympathy for the victim’s family, but also maintained his innocence.   

Contacted by Malone’s appellate attorney in 2010, WIP agreed to conduct a preliminary investigation. “We discovered that Mr. Malone’s trial attorney had not hired an investigator, had not sought out a single witness, and had not asked for a single document,” says Professor Ion Meyn. “Our law students quickly found compelling evidence that led to our decision to take Mr. Malone’s case.” 

The State Public Defender’s Office then appointed WIP attorneys to represent Malone and provided the funding to support the investigation and defense.

Knocking on doors in tough neighborhoods and scouring state records, law students uncovered new police records and found key witnesses. In evidentiary hearings, WIP called ten witnesses on behalf of Malone, including alibi witnesses and other evidence demonstrating that much of the testimony from the State’s key witness at trial could not have been true. In contrast, Malone’s counsel had not called a single witness at trial. “In the post-conviction hearings, we presented evidence suggesting that the State’s chief witness not only falsely implicated Mr. Malone, but that he was in fact the shooter,” says Professor Peter Moreno. When confronted with new evidence at the hearing, the State’s witness refused to respond to questions, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.   

After hearing eight days of testimony and examining new evidence, Judge Borowski vacated Malone’s conviction. Speaking from the bench, Judge Borowoski ruled that the newly discovered evidence found by WIP warranted a new trial.  Judge Borowski also ruled that trial counsel had been ineffective, and that a new trial should issue in the interest of justice.

Law students played a critical role in investigating and litigating Malone’s case. Jamie Yoon, David Blinka, Scott Zehr, Andy Price, Nicolas Mittnacht, Colman Sutter and David Williams conducted an investigation into the shooting, drafted motions, assisted in the preparation of witness testimony, and played significant roles at the evidentiary hearing. University of Wisconsin undergraduate students Adriana Salgado, Amanda Bradley and Rebecca Loeb also provided critical assistance in the investigation and evidentiary hearing.

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