Hearing underway to free Hawaii man for 1991 murder

By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher | Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — Lawyers for a native Hawaiian who was jailed for more than 20 years for the 1991 sexual assault, kidnapping and murder of a white woman visiting Hawaii began presenting new evidence in court Tuesday, including DNA tests, which they say prove that you are innocent. .

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.

Dana Ireland, 23, was found barely alive in the bushes along a fishing trail in Puna, a remote section of the Big Island. She had been sexually assaulted and beaten and later died at Hilo Medical Center. The wrecked bike she was riding on 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.

“Anytime 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. “Parents, understandably, were getting more and more angry. … 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 incarcerated.

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. A coroner’s odontologist also concluded that a lesion on his 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 said.

At the evidentiary hearing that began in a Hilo court on Tuesday, a judge will consider the defense’s request to vacate Schweitzer’s sentence and release him.

Schweitzer, who was serving his 130-year sentence in an Arizona prison due to a lack of space for inmates in Hawaii, was flown while in custody to Big Island for the hearing. He watched the hearing as he sat next to the Innocence Project lawyers.

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.

“Over the last three years, we have shared information and re-examined forensic evidence. Regardless of the outcome of these post-conviction proceedings, we remain committed to identifying Unknown Man #1 and seeking justice for Dana Ireland and her `ohana,” Hawaii County Attorney Kelden Waltjen said in a statement, using the Hawaiian word for “family.” .”

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”.

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