An American man serving a life sentence was released immediately by a judge in Hawaii on Tuesday after his lawyers presented new DNA evidence in his case. Hawaiian media report this on Wednesday.
Today at 15:55
Albert “Ian” Schweitzer was sentenced to 130 years in prison in 2000 for the 1991 murder, kidnapping and assault of 23-year-old Dana Ireland.
The Virginia woman was found badly beaten up on Christmas Eve 1991 in bushes along a fishing trail in Puna, a remote part of the island. She was sexually assaulted and beaten, and later died at Hilo Medical Center. Her bicycle was later found several miles away, apparently hit by a vehicle.
Unsolved for years
The case received national attention and remained unsolved for years. Until Schweitzer was arrested in 2000. He was joined by his now-released younger brother Shawn Schweitzer and the late Frank Pauline Jr. convicted of the crime. This was done, among other things, on the basis of an informant in prison, while a DNA test that excluded the three convicts was ignored.
In 2019, Schweitzer’s attorneys and Hawaii County prosecutors entered into an agreement to re-examine the case. It was the first such agreement in Hawaii, but since then it has increasingly been used to re-examine questionable convictions.
Judge Peter Kubota listened for seven hours Tuesday to a DNA lab analyst and several forensic tape and bite mark experts. They all stated that no piece of evidence links the man or his two alleged accomplices to the crime. “The likelihood that all three men participated in a sexual assault and left no trace of biological evidence — including a lack of evidence discovered through advanced forensic testing — is extremely unlikely,” the defense’s petition read. read. Moreover, the latest DNA techniques show that it concerns one – unknown – perpetrator.
The judge ruled after Tuesday’s statements that Schweiter “should be immediately released from his bonds”. That led to applause in the courtroom in Hilo and hugs for Schweitzer, who flew to the “Big Island” from the prison in Arizona, where he was serving his sentence, for the hearing.
“My feelings went all over the place,” Schweitzer said in a response. “The justice system is flawed,” he added, calling himself one of many imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. He previously told reporters he was “grateful” that the judge acted “honourably”.