3 decades after Dana Ireland’s murder, attorneys ask judge to vacate conviction
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The only man still in prison for the murder of Dana Ireland could be set free ― 32 years after the woman visiting Hawaii Island was raped and murdered in a case that grabbed national headlines.
The attorneys for Albert Ian Schweitzer filed a motion in court Monday asking a judge to vacate his conviction.
Attorneys with the Hawaii Innocence Project and New York Innocence Project cite new evidence in the court documents including improved DNA technology.
Ireland was 23 years old when she was murdered in 1991.
She was riding her bike on Christmas Eve in Kapoho when she was struck by a vehicle.
Her mangled bike was found at the scene on the dirt road, along with a shoe and clumps of blonde hair, but emergency responders could not find the rider.
Thirty minutes later, Ireland was found in the bushes of a fishing trail along Waa Waa Road, five miles from the accident scene. She was nude from the waist down and barely conscious.
Ireland died at the hospital from blood loss.
At the second scene, another shoe and Ireland’s shorts were recovered along with a blue, Jimmy’Z t-shirt.
That shirt is where the new DNA results come from.
DNA never matched
The prosecution insisted that the t-shirt belonged to one of the defendants, Frank Pauline, who was convicted of Ireland’s murder and died in prison in 2015.
According to Monday’s court filing, it was the one piece of evidence the government used to connect Pauline, Schweitzer and his younger brother, Shawn Schweitzer to the crime.
DNA evidence was available at the time of their trials, which first started in 1999. Blood from the shirt and from the gurney used by medical personnel treating Ireland was tested, along with other bodily fluids recovered.
The DNA did not match any of the three defendants but instead, matched one, unidentified male.
That was all known ahead of the trials.
The prosecution explained the un-matched DNA must have come from a fourth accomplice, though no fourth accomplice was ever identified.
But in 2018, long after the men were convicted, advances in DNA technology allowed the Hawaii Innocence Project to run another test on dried sweat from the t-shirt.
“You would expect that if it was Pauline’s t-shirt, at least the sweat underneath the underarms would be Pauline’s,” said Ken Lawson, co-executive director of the HIP.
Multiple parts of the shirt, including the arm pits, were cut and tested.
The results: “There’s absolutely no DNA from Frank Pauline.”
Other evidence also disputed claims
Lawson said the results from the sweat instead match the same unidentified male connected to the other evidence recovered from the scene and Ireland’s body.
Schweitzer’s attorneys said expert witnesses dispute the prosecutions claims that Schweitzer’s car, a 1957 Volkswagon Beetle, was involved.
The Beetle did not have paint transfer from Ireland’s bike, and according to police reports, there was no physical evidence found inside the car either.
That would have shown it was used to transport the critically injured Ireland from the scene of the crash to the fishing trail. There was no blood and no hair from Ireland, either.
Tire tread marks at the crime scenes were most likely made by a larger vehicle, possibly a pickup truck, the expert witnesses claim. Evidence shows investigators originally inspected trucks ― a van and a jeep ― before zeroing in on Schweitzer’s Beetle years later.
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Plus, Schweitzer purchased it after the crime happened, according to his attorneys.
The motion filed to get Schweitzer’s conviction overthrown said some witnesses who testified at trial later recanted. Others were deemed unreliable.
And some were given reward money or reduced prison sentences in exchange for testimony.
Schweitzer was found guilty by a jury in 2000 and remains in the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona. Younger brother Shawn was offered a plea deal later that year and took it to avoid prison time.
He later recanted and has been working to have his brother exonerated.
‘We want to find the right person’
Efforts to find the source of the DNA recovered in the blood, semen and other evidence have so far come up empty.
“We all want to find the right person that did this,” Lawson said, adding the innocence project uploaded the profile into the nationwide system but have not gotten a hit.
“If the person had a record prior to this incident it may or may not be in the system, depending on when they got the record,” Lawson said.
A Hilo judge will rule on the motion and decide if Schweitzer’s conviction should be thrown out. Prosecutors could put him on trial again or drop the case. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday morning.
“Our Office takes conviction integrity seriously. We entered into a conviction integrity agreement with the Hawaii Innocence Project to re-investigate the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Dana Ireland.” said the County of Hawaii Office of the Prosecuting Attorney in a statement.
“Over the last three years, we have shared information and re-examined forensic evidence. No matter the outcome in these post-conviction proceedings, we remain committed to identifying unknown male #1 and seeking justice for Dana Ireland and her ohana,” said officials.
If you have any information that can assist law enforcement, please contact the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney at (808) 961-0466.
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