Was Ireland murder convict killed because he might be exonerated?
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The brother of Frank Pauline, Jr., who was convicted in the 1991 rape and murder of Dana Ireland on the Big Island, said he's worried Pauline was targeted for murder in prison Monday, one day after word surfaced of an effort to exonerate him. But sources told Hawaii News Now Pauline was often involved in trying to take over prison gang leadership, suggesting Pauline could have been killed in a prison power struggle.
Pauline died Monday, on his 42nd birthday, after someone hit him in the back of his head with a rock in the recreation yard of the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility, according to his half brother, John Gonsalves.
Gonsalves, of Mountain View, said he had just spoken to Pauline two hours earlier by phone, when a prison official called him to tell him his brother had died in a prison yard.
Gonsalves worries his brother was killed because the day before, the Hawaii Tribune Herald reported that the Hawaii Innocence Project was trying to exonerate Pauline and two other men.
"It doesn't add up. It's just too coincidental how that came out to the public and then he gets murdered like that," said Gonsalves.
"It could well be, but I don't have enough facts yet to be able to make a statement like that," said criminal defense lawyer Brook Hart. Hart represents Ian Schweitzer, who's serving life in prison with a minimum of 130 years behind bars in the Ireland case. Schweitzer is in a prison in Arizona. His brother Shawn Schweitzer turned state's witness and spent a year in prison and five years of probation.
Hart said the DNA lab that originally tested a bloody shirt found at the murder scene re-tested it using new technology eight years after the trial and found it does not match DNA from Pauline, or either of the Schweitzer brothers who were convicted along with him.
"If it's not Pauline, it's not either of the Schweitzers, who is it? And if we could identify that person, what might that tell us about who did it?" asked Hart.
Hart said Pauline's death hurts the effort to set Schweitzer free.
"What we do is lose a potential witness in the Schweitzer matter that could be crucial," Hart said.
Hart said the Hawaii Innocence Project, a class at the University of Hawaii law school, is pursuing several avenues to exonerate the men in the case.
"It seems as though significant errors were made in the prosecution of the case, with regard to the science of the case and the evidence that was ultimately admitted," Hart said.
Gonsalves said his brother was excited about the possibility of being set free.
"As things went forward, he felt really good about it and he knew it was going to happen and he was glad. And he had every intention to try and come out and do what's right," Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves said he was making funeral arrangements with a Hilo mortuary Tuesday afternoon in preparation to bring his brother's body home for burial.
Pauline was convicted in the 1999 trial for the murder and rape of Dana Ireland and sentenced to 180 years in prison.
He has repeatedly maintained his innocence.
The New Mexico State Police are investigating Pauline's death.
Hawaii prison officials said Pauline was transferred from an Arizona prison to the New Mexico facility in late 2012 because he was a "problem inmate" who was involved in prison gangs.
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