Judge: Release Man Imprisoned for 1991 Murder 'Immediately'

With new evidence, 'a prosecutor would likely not even arrest Mr. Schweitzer for this crime'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 25, 2023 3:00 AM CST
Judge: Release Man Imprisoned for 1991 Murder 'Immediately'
Innocence Project Co-Founder and Special Counsel Barry Scheck speaks during a hearing for Albert "Ian" Schweitzer on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, in Hilo, Hawaii.   (Marco Garcia/The Innocence Project via AP Images)

A judge on Tuesday ordered a man released from prison immediately after his attorneys presented new evidence and argued that he didn’t commit the crimes he was convicted of and spent more than 20 years locked up for: the 1991 murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault of a woman visiting Hawaii. Albert “Ian” Schweitzer, who was convicted in 2000 and sentenced to 130 years in prison, should be “released from his shackles immediately,” Judge Peter Kubota ruled, per the AP. That prompted applause in the Hilo courtroom and hugs for Schweitzer, who was flown to the Big Island for the hearing from the Arizona prison where he was serving his sentence.

With help from the Innocence Project in New York, the co-counsel in the case, Kenneth Lawson's Hawaii Innocence Project represented Schweitzer, the last of three Native Hawaiian men convicted in Dana Ireland's death who had remained imprisoned. DNA evidence previously submitted in the case belonged to an unknown man and all three of the convicted men were excluded as sources. New DNA evidence, according to the petition, shows a “Jimmy Z” brand T-shirt found near Ireland and soaked with her blood belonged to the same unknown man, and not to one of the three men, as prosecutors claimed. Additionally, a new tire tread analysis concluded Schweitzer's Volkswagen Beetle car didn't leave the tire marks at either location where Ireland and her bicycle were found.

A petition filed late Monday outlined additional evidence in one of Hawaii’s biggest murders, which unfolded on Christmas Eve in 1991 on the Big Island. Dana Ireland, 23, was found barely alive in the bushes along a fishing trail in Puna, a remote section of the island. She had been sexually assaulted and beaten, and later died at Hilo Medical Center. The mangled bicycle she had been riding was found several miles away and appeared to have been run into by a vehicle. The slaying of the blond-haired, blue-eyed visitor from Virginia gained national attention and remained unsolved for years, putting intense pressure on police to find the killer. See much more on the case here.

(More Hawaii stories.)

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