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Freed after 20 years, Hawaii man reflects on case, future

Albert “Ian” Schweitzer, left, hugs his mom, Linda, moments after a decide ordered him launched from jail, in Hilo, Hawaii, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. The decide’s ruling got here instantly after Schweitzer’s attorneys offered new proof and argued that Schweitzer didn’t commit the crimes he was convicted of and spent greater than 20 years locked up for: the 1991 homicide, kidnapping and sexual assault of a lady visiting Hawaii.

  • Albert "Ian" Schweitzer, left, hugs his mother, Linda, moments after a judge ordered him released from prison, in Hilo, Hawaii, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. The judge's ruling came immediately after Schweitzer's attorneys presented new evidence and argued that Schweitzer 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.
  • A court officer removes Albert "Ian" Schweitzer's handcuffs following the judge's decision to release him from prison immediately after his attorneys presented new evidence at a hearing Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, in Hilo, Hawaii 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.
  • 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. A judge on Tuesday ordered Schweitzer 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.

HONOLULU (AP) — On Ian Schweitzer’s first morning of freedom Wednesday, he wakened in a resort room, seemed over the balcony on the ocean and took in the great thing about the island he had been away from for over 20 years whereas imprisoned for a 1991 killing and rape he has all the time maintained he didn’t commit.

In an interview with The Related Press from the Large Island, he mirrored on a variety of feelings, from his religion in God that saved him constructive to his difficult emotions about police and the felony justice system to a quest to assist clear up who actually killed Dana Eire.

You are reading: Freed after 20 years, Hawaii man reflects on case, future

“We wish justice for Dana,” Schweitzer mentioned.

Schweitzer mentioned he considers himself a sufferer of the identical crimes he was convicted of: “I really feel like they murdered 25 years of my life. I really feel like they kidnapped me away from my household. I really feel like they raped me of being a son.”

A decide ordered his launch Tuesday after hours of professional testimony on new proof displaying Schweitzer wasn’t liable for the loss of life of Eire, 23, a vacationer from Virginia. She was visiting a distant a part of the Large Island when she was discovered alongside a fishing path, raped and crushed and barely alive. She died later at a hospital.

The brand new proof, due to advances in DNA testing, included a discovering {that a} T-shirt found close by and soaked with Eire’s blood belonged to an unknown man, and never Schweitzer or the 2 others convicted of killing her.

Hawaii County Prosecuting Legal professional Kelden Waltjen mentioned in an announcement this week that his workplace is dedicated to figuring out that unknown man. He was anticipated to make an announcement in regards to the case Thursday.

Large Island Mayor Mitch Roth, who was prosecuting lawyer in 2019 when the Innocence Challenge and prosecutors agreed to reinvestigate, mentioned Wednesday that “there’s nonetheless frustration we don’t know whose DNA it’s.”

Repeated makes an attempt by The Related Press to succeed in Eire’s family members had been unsuccessful.

“I believe there’s a sister on the market, you recognize, God bless her,” Schweitzer mentioned. “I need her to know that my staff goes to do every part that they probably can to work with … prosecutors to find the unknown DNA.”

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Innocence Challenge attorneys in Hawaii and New York filed a petition late Monday outlining the brand new proof and looking for Schweitzer’s launch. They’re additionally finding out a Hawaii statute that will let him accumulate $50,000 for yearly he was behind bars.

Barry Scheck, one in all his New York attorneys, mentioned they don’t anticipate prosecutors to pursue additional prices and he hopes Hawaii can study from this case.

“If three harmless folks might be convicted within the largest homicide case within the historical past of the state, then folks should step again and say, how can we forestall this from taking place once more?” Scheck mentioned.

Attorneys at the moment are turning to exonerating the opposite two. They embrace Schweitzer’s youthful brother Shawn, who took a responsible plea deal after his brother was convicted in 2000 and sentenced to 130 years.

The youthful Schweitzer recanted in October, which helped bolster the case for his brother’s launch.

Keith Shigetomi, the lawyer who represented Shawn Schweitzer when he pleaded responsible in trade for credit score for about yr in jail, mentioned Wednesday that he really believed again then that he may persuade a jury of his shopper’s innocence, however Shawn Schweitzer feared telling the reality would imply sharing the identical destiny as his brother.

The household thought of it. “Ian advised him, do it, save your self,” Shigetomi mentioned, including that legal professionals are engaged on withdrawing the plea.

The Schweitzers turned suspects amid intense strain to search out Eire’s killer. In 1994, Frank Pauline Jr. got here ahead and claimed he was with them when Ian Schweitzer ran Eire’s bike over after which killed her.

However he was interviewed at the least seven occasions and gave inconsistent accounts every time. When it was clear he could be indicted together with the Schweitzers, he tried to take all of it again and mentioned he had lied to attempt to get drug prices dropped towards his half-brother.

Pauline was convicted, together with the brothers, and killed by a fellow inmate in a New Mexico jail in 2015.

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Myles Breiner, an lawyer representing Pauline’s household, mentioned Wednesday he’ll file a movement looking for to have him posthumously exonerated.

Ian Schweitzer mentioned it’s clear to him the justice system is flawed.

“It didn’t matter if I used to be harmless,” he mentioned. “They simply wanted a conviction.”

Martin Tankleff is aware of how Schweitzer feels. He was wrongly convicted of murdering his mother and father on Lengthy Island, New York, and was launched in 2007 after 17 years in jail.

“The perfect piece of recommendation I can provide him is take it extraordinarily gradual,” Tankleff mentioned, recalling how he was overwhelmed by on a regular basis issues just like the choices within the cereal aisle of the grocery retailer. “The world will likely be utterly completely different.”

Schweitzer served his time in Arizona due to an absence of jail area in Hawaii. Again on the Large Island, he mirrored on what it felt wish to be residence.

“Sitting proper right here on this stunning resort, it appears the identical,” he mentioned. “However I do know as soon as I’m going down the road and every part’s modified, every part’s modified.”

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AP journalist Claire Rush in Portland and researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.

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