HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) – After a years-long effort, a Hawaii Island judge vacated the conviction Tuesday of the lone man who was still in prison for the 1991 murder of Dana Ireland ― eliciting tears and cries of joy from the man’s family in a Hilo courtroom.
Albert Ian Schweitzer, 51, spent 23 years behind bars for the murder he didn’t commit.
After the judge’s decision, Schweitzer’s handcuffs were removed, he embraced his family and members of his legal team with tears in his eyes, and left the courtroom holding his mother’s hand.
In a news conference following the decision, standing by his mother and other members of his family, a visibly moved Schweitzer thanked his innocence project lawyers and the judge.
“I’m just grateful, very thankful,” he said.
Advances in DNA technology ruled out Schweitzer as the murderer, along with two others (Schweitzer’s brother Shawn and Frank Pauline) who were pinned with the crime.
That means the killer remains at large.
“The new DNA evidence … conclusively proves a jury would likely reach a different verdict of acquittal,” Judge Peter Kubota told the court, following a daylong hearing on a motion to vacate the conviction.
Kubota then addressed Schweitzer directly, urging him to try to move on with his life.
Most of the testimony Tuesday came from a DNA expert from California, who said on the stand that advances in clearly science show Schweitzer did not rape or murder Ireland.
Other experts on tire tread marks and bite marks also took the stand.
Ireland was 23 years old when she was murdered.
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.
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