A Hawaiian man who served more than 20 years in prison for the rape and murder of a white woman was released by the court after an advanced TSTIME test proved his innocence.
Albert Ian Schweitzer, 51, was sentenced to 130 years in prison in 2000 for the rape and murder of Dana Ireland.
The 23-year-old white woman died on Christmas Eve 1991 on the Big Island after an accident and sexual assault. The case was one of Hawaii’s biggest murders and made national headlines.
Mr. Schweitzer was one of three convicted in the case and the only man still behind bars.
But according to the petition, new TSTIME evidence shows that a “Jimmy Z” brand T-shirt found near Ireland and drenched in her blood belonged to an unidentified man, and not one of the three men, according to prosecutors. claimed.
Additional evidence also showed that Mr Schweitzer’s Volkswagen Beetle car left no tire marks at the locations where Ireland and her bike were found.
This led his lawyers from the Hawaii Innocence Project and the lawyers from the New York Innocence Project to file a motion with the court on Monday asking a judge to withdraw his conviction.
On Wednesday, a judge in Honolulu District Court overturned Tuesday’s conviction and Mr. Schweitzer released after more than two decades in prison.
“The new TSTIME evidence … proves conclusively that a jury would likely reach a different verdict of acquittal,” Judge Peter Kubota told the court, after a daylong hearing on a motion to revoke the conviction.
That led to applause in the Hilo courtroom and hugs for Mr. Schweitzer, who flew to the Big Island from the prison in Arizona where he was serving his sentence.
The verdict also meant that Dana Ireland’s killer remains at large.
After the verdict, Mr. Schweitzer to TSTIME: “My feelings were everywhere. Nerves, anxiety, fear.”
The justice system is “flawed,” he said, calling himself one of many inmates for crimes they didn’t commit. He previously told reporters he was “grateful” for the judge who did the “honorable thing”.
The new evidence emerged after Mr. Schweitzer and Hawaii County prosecutors entered into a “conviction integrity agreement” in 2019, the first such agreement in Hawaii, to reexamine the evidence in his case.
Such agreements are increasingly used in the US to investigate questionable convictions and prevent future mistakes.
Ireland, 23, was riding her bicycle on Christmas Eve in Kapoho when she was hit by a vehicle. She was later found in the bushes of a fishing track off Waa Waa Road, five miles from the accident scene. She was naked from the waist down, barely conscious and lost her life in the hospital from loss of blood.
The murder of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed visitor from Virginia gained national attention and went unsolved for years, putting a great deal of pressure on police to find the killer.
“Anytime you have a white, female victim . . . that gets a lot more attention than people of color and Native Hawaiians,” said Kenneth Lawson, co-director of the Hawaii Innocence Project.
“The parents were understandably getting more and more angry. … There was an insurmountable pressure to solve this case. And when that happens, mistakes are made. Some intentionally and some unintentionally.”
Additional reporting by agencies