Hawaii man, 51, serving 130-year prison sentence for murder is released following new DNA evidence – Albert ‘Ian’ Schweitzer was convicted in 2000 of the 1991 murder of Virginia tourist Dana Ireland, 23
Hawaii man, 51, serving 130-year prison sentence for the 1991 murder and rape of a tourist after serving 22 years
Dana Ireland, 23, was visiting from Virginia when she was found barely alive in the bushes along a fishing trail in Puna, Hawaii on Christmas Eve 1991
She’d been sexually assaulted and beaten, and later died – her assailant has never been found
Albert ‘Ian’ Schweitzer was convicted in 2000 for the murder of Ireland, but new DNA evidence proves he was not at the scene
Schweitzer was the last of three Native Hawaiian men convicted in Ireland’s death, who had remained imprisoned
DNA evidence previously submitted in the case belonged to an unknown man, and excluded all three convicted men
New DNA analysis found that Schweitzer’s DNA was not on Ireland, his VW Beetle didn’t leave the tire marks where Ireland and her bicycle were found either
Frank Pauline Jr, while serving a 10-year drug sentence, claimed brothers Albert and Shawn Schweitzer, raped and killed Dana Ireland
Although he later recanted, all three were jailed, but later DNA evidence exculpated the three men
A Hawaiian man has been released from prison after spending more than 20 years behind bars for the kidnapping, and sexual assault of a female tourist, resulting in her death after new evidence proved he did not commit the heinous crime 32 years ago.
Albert ‘Ian’ Schweitzer, now 51, was convicted in 2000 of the Christmas Eve, 1991, murder of Dana Ireland, a 23-year-old tourist from Virginia.
Schweitzer was 19 at the time of the murder in 1991. A year later he was convicted and sentenced to 130 years in prison.
He always insisted he was innocent, and in 2019, Schweitzer’s attorneys and Hawaii County prosecutors entered into a ‘conviction integrity agreement’ to re-investigate the case. The case was taken up by the Innocence Project of the University of Hawaii law school.
On Tuesday, Judge Peter Kubota ruled that Schweitzer should be ‘released from his shackles immediately.’
Kubota’s declaration prompted applause in the Hilo courtroom and hugs for Schweitzer, who was flown to the Big Island for the hearing from the Arizona prison where he was serving his sentence.
‘My feelings were all over the place,’ said Schweitzer, speaking to AP about the moment of his release, adding – ‘Nerves, anxiety, scared.’
He said the justice system was ‘flawed,’ calling himself one of many imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.
He earlier told reporters that he was ‘grateful’ for the judge doing the ‘honorable thing.’
A petition filed late Monday outlined additional evidence in one of Hawaii’s biggest murders, which unfolded on the Big Island.
Dana Ireland, 23, was found barely alive in the bushes along a fishing trail in Puna, a remote section of the island.
She had been sexually assaulted and beaten, and later died at Hilo Medical Center. The mangled bicycle she had been riding was found several miles away and appeared to have been run into by a vehicle.
The murder of the young visitor from Virginia gained national attention and remained unsolved for years, putting intense pressure on police to find the killer.
‘Whenever you have a white, female victim … it gets a lot more attention than people of color and Native Hawaiians,’ said Kenneth Lawson, co-director of the Hawaii Innocence Project.
‘The parents, understandably, were becoming more and more infuriated.
‘There was insurmountable pressure to solve this case. And when that happens, mistakes are made. Some intentional and some unintentional.’
Ireland’s relatives are yet to comment on Schweitzer’s release.
Lawson secured the release of Schweitzer with help from the Innocence Project in New York.
Schweitzer was the last of three Native Hawaiian men convicted in Ireland’s death who had remained imprisoned.
DNA evidence previously submitted in the case belonged to an unknown man – and all three of the convicted men were excluded as sources.
New DNA evidence showed that traces found on a ‘Jimmy Z’ brand T-shirt, near Ireland and soaked with her blood, belonged to the same unknown man.
Additionally, a new tire tread analysis concluded Schweitzer’s Volkswagen Beetle car did not leave the tire marks at either location where Ireland and her bicycle were found.
A forensic odontologist also concluded an injury on her left breast was not a bite mark, as previously believed, the petition said.
‘At a new trial today, a jury would not convict Mr Schweitzer of Ms Ireland’s sexual assault and murder,’ the petition said.
‘In fact, a prosecutor would likely not even arrest Mr Schweitzer for this crime.’
The likelihood that all three men participated in a sexual attack and left no trace of biological evidence – including a lack of evidence uncovered with advanced forensic testing – is ‘extraordinarily improbable,’ the petition said.
The 2019 conviction integrity agreement was the first time in Hawaii there has been this type of agreement which is increasingly being used to reexamine questionable convictions and guard against future errors.
‘Over the last three years, we have shared information and re-examined forensic evidence.
‘No matter the outcome in these post-conviction proceedings, we remain committed to identifying unknown male #1 and seeking justice for Dana Ireland and her ‘ohana [family],” said Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney Kelden Waltjen.
However, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Shannon Kagawa asked the judge to deny the petition, saying the new evidence wouldn’t change the outcome of a new trial.
Kubota disagreed, saying that based on the new evidence, a jury would acquit Schweitzer.
Much of the background on the Ireland case is detailed in a document filed with the petition, which lists facts that defense attorneys and prosecutors have stipulated.
The crime remained unsolved until 994, when police made what they believed to be a major breakthrough. A man facing charges for his role in a cocaine conspiracy contacted police and claimed his half-brother, Frank Pauline Jr., witnessed Ireland’s attack, according to the stipulated facts document.
Police interviewed Pauline, who was in his third month of a 10-year sentence for an unrelated sex assault and theft.
He claimed brothers Ian and Shawn Schweitzer attacked and killed Ireland.
The jailhouse snitch was interviewed at least seven times and gave inconsistent accounts each time, eventually incriminating himself, the stipulation document said.
Despite the lack of evidence linking them to the killing, Ian and Shawn Schweitzer along with Pauline were indicted in 1997.
At one point the charges were dismissed because all three men were excluded as the source of semen found in Ireland and on a hospital gurney sheet.
They were indicted again after another informant claimed Ian Schweitzer confessed to him in jail that Pauline raped and killed Ireland.
Pauline later said he offered details to police about the Ireland murder in order to get drug charges dropped against his half-brother.
In a prison interview with the A&E show ‘American Justice,’ Pauline compared his story to the tale of the boy who cried wolf.
‘Wasn’t me,’ he said in a strong Hawaii Pidgin accent.
But when he started telling the truth, he said no one believed him.
Shawn Schweitzer took a deal to plead guilty to manslaughter and kidnapping, and receive credit for about a year served and five years of probation, after seeing juries convict Pauline and his brother in 2000.
In October, Shawn Schweitzer met with prosecutors and recanted.
According to the stipulation document, he pled guilty because his ‘parents did not want to risk losing another son and encouraged Shawn Schweitzer to do what he needed to do to come home and not suffer the same fate as his brother.’
Shawn Schweitzer ‘continues to feel immense guilt about agreeing to the confession and entering a guilty plea for a crime he did not commit and falsely implicating his brother,’ the document said.
A polygraph test in November showed he was telling the truth when he denied any involvement in the murder, the document said.
Frank Pauline Jr was killed in a New Mexico prison by a fellow inmate in 2015.
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