HILO, Hawaii (KHON2) — Albert Ian Schweitzer’s case was taken up by the Hawai’i Innocence Project. They believed based on evidence that he had been wrongfully convicted. Today, Jan. 24, a judge agreed with them.

Schweitzer has now been exonerated; the judge ordering his immediate release.

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Convicted murderer Albert Ian Schweitzer has been exonerated after a hearing that presented new evidence by the Hawaii Innocence Project. Schweitzer was one of three men found guilty of killing Dana Ireland more than 30 years ago. A judge ruled on Tuesday, Jan. 24 that Schweitzer, who was in the courtroom during the hearing can now be set free.

After a hearing that took most of the day, Hilo Circuit Court Judge Peter Kubota ruled in favor of Albert Schweitzer.

“Therefore, it is the judgement of this court that the new DNA evidence, the tire tread evidence, the bite mark evidence and Shawn Schweitzer’s recantation conclusively prove that in a new trial, a jury would likely reach a different verdict of acquittal,” said Judge Kubota.

There were cheers from the defense team as Schweitzer was told he can be released after spending the past 23 years in prison.  

“So, therefore, the conviction of Albert Ian Schweitzer for murder in the second-degree, kidnapping and sexual assault in the first-degree is, hereby, vacated; and Mr. Schweitzer shall be released immediately from custody in this courtroom,” added Judge Kubota.

Twenty-three-year-old Dana Ireland was killed on Dec. 24 1991 while riding her bike on the Big Island. It took years, but three suspects were eventually convicted of the crime. Frank Pauline, Jr., who was killed while serving his time in a New Mexico prison; Shawn Schweitzer, who cut a plea deal and served a year in jail; and Albert Ian Schweitzer who has been in prison.

The Hawai’i Innocence Project asked the court to release Ian because of new evidence presented on Tuesday; they said there have been significant improvements in DNA testing since the original trial.

“In total, there are seven samples that were tested for DNA. An Unknown Male Number 1’s DNA was found on all of them. Ian, Sean and Frank are all excluded,” said attorney Susan Friedman for the Innocence Project, which is based in New York.

Amongst the key evidence presented was a bloody T-shirt supposedly worn by Pauline. A forensic scientist testified that DNA found on the shirt excludes the three men from matching the sample.

“What it means when someone is excluded is their DNA does not match or is not consistent with the DNA from the evidence,” said Nancy Dinh, forensic scientist.

Under cross examination, the state asked if there was another shirt worn underneath, is it possible to not leave any DNA on the outer shirt?

“It’s possible that they wouldn’t leave DNA behind,” said Dinh.

“Because there’s a shirt underneath that’s closer in contact with your body?” asked Deputy Prosecutor Shannon Kagawa.

“It creates a sort of barrier, but the neckline is still exposed to both shirts,” said Dinh.

After his ruling, the judge gave Schweitzer advice on how to live his life as a free man.

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“You can live it being angry and resentful at the process or the people that put you there, or you can live it with a new freedom. I suggest that since you have your whole family here, you hug and love your family and live a fulfilled life,” said Kubota.