Judge to consider freeing Hawaiian man convicted of 1991 murder of woman amid ‘overwhelming new evidence of innocence’

Lawyers for a native Hawaiian man who has been jailed for more than 20 years for the 1991 sexual assault, kidnapping and murder of a white woman visiting Hawaii will ask a judge Tuesday to throw out his conviction because of new evidence, including DNA evidence, in the case.

A petition filed Monday night outlines additional evidence in one of Hawaii’s biggest murders, which took place on Christmas Eve 1991 on the island of Hawaii, commonly known as the Big Island.

A woman found 23-year-old Dana Ireland “clinging to life” in the bushes along a fishing trail in Puna, a remote section of the Big Island, according to the Hawaii Innocence Project.

“Dana was incoherent, partially clothed, and believed she was the apparent victim of a sexual assault,” the group said. “They waited for an hour and a half before emergency services arrived when Dana was taken to Hilo Hospital. She tragically died at 12:07 am on December 25, 1991, from massive blood loss.”

Hawaii Murder Innocence Project

The wrecked bike she was riding was found several miles away and appeared to have been struck by a vehicle.

The murder of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed visitor from Virginia garnered national attention and remained unsolved for years, putting intense pressure on police to find the killer.

“Any time you have a white, female victim … she 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, became more and more enraged… There was insurmountable pressure to solve this case. And when that happens, mistakes are made. Some intentional and some unintentional.”

With the help of the Innocence Project in New York, the co-counsel in the case, Lawson’s group represents Albert “Ian” Schweitzer, the last of three Native Hawaiians convicted of Ireland’s death who remains in prison.

DNA evidence submitted earlier in the case belonged to an unknown man, and the three convicted men were excluded as sources.

New DNA evidence, according to the petition, shows that a “Jimmy Z” brand T-shirt found near Ireland and soaked with his blood belonged to the same unknown man, and not to one of the three men, as prosecutors claimed.

Additionally, a new analysis of the tire treads concluded that Schweitzer’s Volkswagen Beetle car did not leave tire marks in any of the locations where Ireland and his bike were found.

TRIAL OF IRELAND

Hawaii News Now reported that the tire marks at the crime scenes were likely made by a larger vehicle, possibly a pickup truck, an expert witness claims in the petition. The evidence shows that investigators originally inspected trucks, a pickup truck and a jeep, before zeroing in on Schweitzer’s Beetle years later, the station reported.

A coroner’s odontologist also concluded that a lesion on her left breast was not a bite mark, as previously believed, according to the petition.

“In a new trial today, a jury would not convict Mr. Schweitzer of the sexual assault and murder of Ms. Ireland,” the petition said. “In fact, a prosecutor probably wouldn’t even arrest Mr. Schweitzer for this crime.”

The likelihood that the three men engaged in a sexual assault and left no trace of biological evidence, including lack of evidence discovered with advanced forensic testing, is “extraordinarily unlikely,” the petition says.

At the evidentiary hearing, a judge will consider the defense’s request to vacate Schweitzer’s sentence and release him.

Ireland’s next of kin could not immediately be reached for comment on the petition.

In 2019, Schweitzer’s lawyers and Hawaii County prosecutors signed a “conviction integrity agreement” to reinvestigate the case. It was the first time in Hawaii that there had been this type of agreement, Lawson said, which is increasingly being used to reexamine questionable convictions and guard against future wrongdoing.

Much of the background to the Ireland case is detailed in a document filed with the petition that lists the facts set forth by defense attorneys and prosecutors.

In 1994, the police made what they believed to be a breakthrough. A man facing charges over his role in a cocaine conspiracy contacted police and claimed his half-brother, Frank Pauline Jr., witnessed the Ireland attack, according to the stipulated facts document.

Police interviewed Pauline, who was in her third month of a 10-year sentence for unrelated sexual assault and robbery. She claimed that brothers Ian and Shawn Schweitzer attacked and killed Ireland. But he was interviewed at least seven times and gave inconsistent accounts each time, eventually incriminating himself, the stipulation document says.

Despite a lack of evidence linking them to the murder, the two Schweitzers and Pauline were indicted in 1997.

At one point, the charges were dismissed because the three men were excluded as the source of the semen found in Ireland and on a hospital gurney sheet. They were charged again after another informant claimed that Ian Schweitzer confessed to him in jail that Pauline raped and killed Ireland.

Pauline later said that she offered details to police about Ireland’s murder so that the drug charges against her half-brother would be dropped.

In a prison interview with A&E’s “American Justice,” Pauline compared her story to the story of the boy who cried wolf. “It wasn’t me,” she said with a thick Pidgin Hawaiian accent. But when she started to tell the truth, she said that no one believed her.

Shawn Schweitzer made a deal to plead guilty to manslaughter and kidnapping, and receive credit for approximately one year served and five years of probation, after watching jurors convict Pauline and her brother in 2000.

In October, Shawn Schweitzer met with prosecutors and recanted. According to the stipulation document, he pleaded guilty because “his parents did not want to risk losing another child and encouraged Shawn Schweitzer to do what he had to do to come home and not suffer the same fate as his brother.” he”.

Shawn Schweitzer “continues to feel immense guilt for accepting the confession and pleading guilty to a crime he did not commit and falsely implicating his brother,” the document says.

A polygraph test in November showed he was telling the truth when he denied any involvement in the murder, according to the document.

Pauline was murdered in a New Mexico prison by a fellow prisoner in 2015. Ian Schweitzer is serving his 130-year sentence in an Arizona prison due to a lack of space for inmates in Hawaii.

“Mr. Schweitzer has spent more than two decades wrongfully imprisoned based on evidence from unreliable informants and accident reconstruction testimony,” the petition states. “It would be inconceivable for him to remain incarcerated, given this overwhelming new evidence of innocence.”

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