Albert “Ian” Schweitzer, Hawaiian jailed for murdering and raping Dana Ireland in 1991, freed after lawyer presents new evidence
Honolulu — – A judge ordered the immediate release of a man from prison Tuesday after his lawyers presented new evidence and proved he did not commit the crimes for which he was convicted and imprisoned for more than 20 years: the 1991 murder, kidnapping and sexual assault of a woman visiting Hawaii.
Judge Peter Kubota said Albert “Ian” Schweitzer, who was convicted in 2000 and sentenced to 130 years in prison, “should be freed immediately.”
There were tears, applause and hugs in the Hilo courtroom for Schweitzer, who flew to the Big Island for the hearing from an Arizona prison where he is serving time.
CBS Honolulu affiliate KGMB-TV thanked an emotional Schweitzer’s attorneys and the judge, who appeared with his mother and other family members at a press conference. “I’m just grateful, very grateful,” he said.
Schweitzer recalled his release in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, saying his “emotions were all over the place. … Nerves, anxiety, fear.”
He said the justice system was “flawed” and called him one of those arrested for crimes he did not commit.
AIn one of Hawaii’s worst murders on Christmas Eve 1991, it took place on the Big Island.
Dana Ireland, 23, was found barely alive in bushes along a fishing road in Pune, a remote part of the island. She was sexually assaulted and beaten and later died at Hilo Medical Center. The mangled bike he was riding was found several miles away and appears to have been hit by a car.
The murder of the blond-haired, blue-eyed visitor from Virginia drew national attention and remained unsolved for years, putting intense pressure on police to find the killer.
“Anytime you have a white, female victim, it gets more attention than people of color and Native Hawaiians,” said Kenneth Lawson, co-director of the Hawaii Innocence Project. “Parents, of course, became more and more angry. … There was an insurmountable pressure to solve this case. And this is when mistakes happen. Some are intentional and some are unintentional.’
Irish relatives could not immediately be reached for comment on the petition and Schweitzer’s release. Prosecutors did not immediately comment on Schweitzer’s release.
Aided by the Innocence Project of New York, co-counsel Lawson’s team represented Schweitzer, the last of three Native Hawaiian men incarcerated in Ireland’s death.
DNA evidence previously presented in the case was attributed to an unknown person and the three convicts were excluded as sources.
New DNA evidence shows that a “Jimmy Z” T-shirt found near Ireland and soaked in his blood belonged to the same stranger, not one of the three men as prosecutors said, the filing said.
In addition, new tire tread analysis concluded that Schweitzer’s Volkswagen Beetle left no traces where Ireland and his bicycle were found. The forensic odontologist also concluded that the wound on her left chest was not a bite wound, as previously assumed.
“On today’s retrial, the jury will not convict Mr. Schweitzer of sexually assaulting and murdering Ms. Ireland,” the petition states. “In fact, the prosecutor would not even arrest Mr. Schweitzer for this crime.”
It is “extremely unlikely” that the three men were sexually assaulted and that no biological evidence was left behind, including evidence found through advanced forensics, the petition said.
In 2019, Schweitzer’s attorneys and the Hawaii District Attorney reached a “sentencing integrity agreement” to retry the case. Lawson said it was the first of its kind in Hawaii, which is often used to review questionable convictions and protect against future wrongdoing.
“Over the past three years, we have shared information and re-examined forensic evidence. Regardless of the outcome of this post-conviction process, we are committed to identifying Unknown Person #1 and seeking justice. Dana is for Ireland and her ‘ohana, said Hawaii District Attorney Kelden Waltjen, using the Hawaiian word for “family” before issuing his ruling.
However, Assistant District Attorney Shannon Kagawa asked the judge to deny the motion, saying the new evidence would not change the outcome of the new trial.
Kubota disagreed, saying the jury would have acquitted Schweitzer based on the new evidence.
Much of the Irish case is detailed in a document filed with the motion that lists the facts presented by defense attorneys and prosecutors.
In 1994, the police made what they considered a major breakthrough. A man accused of a cocaine conspiracy has called police and claims his half-brother, Frank Pauline Jr., witnessed the attack in Ireland.
Police have questioned Pauline, who has a 10-year sentence for unrelated sexual assault and robbery. He claimed that brothers Ian and Sean Schweitzer attacked and killed Ireland. But he was interrogated at least seven times and gave inconsistent accounts each time, eventually incriminating himself, according to the arraignment document.
Both Schweitzer and Paulin were charged in 1997, despite a lack of evidence linking them to the murders.
At one point, the charges were dropped because three men were ruled out as the source of the sperm found in Ireland and on hospital stretcher sheets. They were again charged after another informant, Ian Schweitzer, claimed that Pauline had confessed to him in prison that she had raped and killed Ireland.
Pauline later told police she had given details of Ireland’s murder to drop drug charges against her brother.
In a prison interview on A&E’s show “American Justice,” Pauline compared her story to that of the boy who cried wolf. “It wasn’t me,” he said in a thick Hawaiian Pidgin accent. But when he started telling the truth, he said, no one believed him.
Shawn Schweitzer agreed in 2000 to plead guilty to manslaughter and kidnapping and receive about a year of credit and five years of probation after a jury saw Pauline and her brother convicted.
In October, Sean Schweitzer met with prosecutors and withdrew his plea. According to the plea deal, he pleaded guilty because his “parents didn’t want to lose another son and encouraged Shawn Schweitzer to do what he had to do to get home and not suffer the same fate as his brother.”
Shawn Schweitzer “accepts a confession, pleads guilty to a crime he did not commit and feels tremendous guilt for falsely accusing his brother,” the document said.
A polygraph test in November showed he was telling the truth when he pleaded not guilty to the murder, the document said.
Pauline was killed by an inmate in a New Mexico prison in 2015.
Returning to Hawaii “tastes good,” Schweitzer told the AP.
“The weather is good,” he said. “The water is good.”
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