Prisoner in 1991 Dana Ireland murder exonerated, released

More than three decades after a 23-year-old Virginia tourist was kidnapped, raped and left for dead on a remote trail in Puna on Christmas Eve, a Hilo judge vacated the conviction of the remaining prisoner after hearing new evidence that he didn’t do it.

Albert “Ian” Schweitzer, 51, was immediately released to his family after 23 years in prison. Third Circuit Court Judge Peter K. Kubota heard testimony from a DNA lab analyst and forensic tire and bite mark experts who outlined how none of the evidence linked him or his two alleged co-conspirators to the 1991 killing of Dana Ireland.

Kubota alluded to a “great outrage in the community” and media that may have contributed to Ian Schweitzer’s conviction and noted that DNA analysis technology had significantly advanced since the 2000 conviction.

After hearing the evidence during a more than seven-hour long hearing Kubota ruled that it “conclusively proves that in a new trial, a jury would likely reach a new verdict of acquittal.”

None of the DNA evidence collected through a rape kit and blood-stained articles of clothing belonged to Schweitzer, his brother Shawn or Frank Pauline Jr., according to a memorandum in support of a petition to vacate the judgment, filed Monday.

The source of the DNA from “all the biological evidence, in this case, belongs to one individual, Unknown Male No. 1.”

The unknown suspect’s “skin and sperm cells were recovered from a Jimmy Z’ brand T-shirt soaked in Dana Ireland’s blood found near her body; Unknown Male No. 1’s sperm was also recovered from Ms. Ireland’s vaginal swab and hospital gurney sheet that was used to transport her; and Unknown Male No. 1’s DNA is consistent with the DNA on Ms. Ireland’s pubic comb and her underwear,” according to the memo.

“The DNA test results show they are innocent… Unknown male No. 1 committed this horrendous crime,” said Barry C. Scheck, speaking in court.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Shannon M. Kagawa, tried to argue that an unknown suspect and the lack of DNA evidence were known to prosecutors and the jury 23 years ago and they still convicted him.

“The theory at trial was always that there was another individual involved,” said Kagawa, speaking in court. “The jury knew that, and still found the defendant guilty.”

Kubota urged Schweitzer to “hug and love your family” and not focus on the anger and resentment toward the process or people that left him in jail for a third of his life.

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