HONOLULU (KHON2) — Just a little over 24 hours ago, Albert Ian Schweitzer was spending the rest of his life in prison for the murder of Dana Ireland, a crime we now know, he did not commit.
And in a heartbeat, that murder conviction was vacated by a Big Island judge.
Albert Ian Schweitzer is now a free man, after spending over two decades behind bars.
For decades, Albert Ian Schweitzer and two others were held responsible for the sexual assault and murder of Dana Ireland in 1991.
23 years later Schweitzer is rewriting his own story after a judge vacated his conviction Tuesday due to new DNA evidence.
KHON asked, “All that time you spent behind bars, did you ever lose hope?”
Schweitzer responded, “You know, no I didn’t. I gave it to the Lord you know. He answered my prayers.”
Judge Kubota said, “Mr. Schweitzer shall be released immediately from custody in this courtroom.”
“Judge Kubota, I prayed for years for just an honorable judge. He’s the man,” said Schweitzer.
On Dec. 24, 1991, Dana Ireland was killed while riding her bike on Hawaii island.
It took years, but Schweitzer, his brother Shawn and Frank Pauline junior were convicted for the crime.
Schweitzer said, “I was offered 10 years probation, first they came at me with 20 years probation. I said I didn’t do it. That same week, they came at me with 10 years probation for murder, kidnap and rape, I’m innocent. 23 years, 25 years in prison cause I didn’t take the deal.”
Schweitzer said his family was ripped apart during the process.
His brother Shawn cut a plea deal and served a year in jail, in order to keep the family united.
Ken lawson, Hawaii Innocence Project Co-Director said, “So they put the pressure on Shawn and as a family say just stay together best way for us to stay together is for you to stay home with mom and dad and keep my hopes up that the truth will come out.”
Schweitzer remained optimistic behind bars. And so did the Hawaii Innocence Project who entered a conviction integrity agreement with the Hawaii County Prosecutor’s Office. Over the last three years, they shared information and re-examined forensic evidence in the case.
Tuesday, new DNA evidence revealed to the court that Schweitzer’s DNA was excluded and instead pointed to an unknown male.
“The technology, the science is real and I thank God every day for DNA. For years, I sat in the cell and I talked to God and thank him for DNA,” said Schweitzer.
Now, Schweitzer said he’ll spend the next couple of days catching up with family and readjusting to life.
He continued, “One day at a time you know and just really take it in, you know it smells good out here. Barry and I got to give him iPhone lessons because the iPhone didn’t come out until 2007. I’m illiterate, I don’t even know how to turn a phone on.”
Schweitzer has already been invited to guest speak at a gala this summer in New York.
He hopes to share the story of his darkest days to shed light and make a difference in the world.
“I’m going to take Judge Kubota’s advice and live this next third of my life being a blessing kind of like these guys right here. To be blessed is to be a blessing to someone else,” said Schweitzer.