HONOLULU (AP) — The brother of a Hawaii man recently released after more than 20 years in prison for the killing and rape of a tourist has filed a similar request seeking exonerati on.
An attorney for the California Innocence Project, which is representing Shawn Schweitzer, filed a petition Thursday in one of Hawaii’s biggest murder cases. Schweitzer, his brother and a third man were indicted for the death of Dana Ireland, who was found barely alive in the bushes along a fishing trail in Puna, a remote section of the Big Island in 1991.
She had been sexually assaulted and beaten, and later died at a hospital. 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 visitor from Virginia gained national attention and remained unsolved for years, putting intense pressure on police to find the killer.
After seeing a jury find his brother guilty, Schweitzer and his family decided he needed to take a plea deal, his former attorney has said. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and kidnapping in exchange for credit for about a year served in jail.
In January, a Big Island judge ordered his brother, Ian Schweitzer, released immediately after his attorneys presented new evidence, including DNA that belongs to an unknown male and not the three men who were convicted.
Shawn Schweitzer’s petition cites the same evidence.
Schweitzer’s “plea was the result of manifest injustice,” the petition said. It asks that a judge vacate the conviction and dismiss the indictment or allow him to withdraw his guilty plea and dismiss the case.
Schweitzer said he’s looking forward to clearing his name after being ostracized in their small community.
“You go places and you see people that give you stink eye, dirty looks…it was very difficult,” he told the Associated Press in a phone interview Friday.
His wife, children and other relatives also suffered. “They all carry our last name,” he said. “It’s a pretty unusual last name so it’s hard to hide it.”
His attorney, Alex Simpson, said they filed the petition after trying to negotiate a resolution with prosecutors. “I’m hopeful that we’re going to come to a peaceful and quick resolution,” he said.
A hearing hadn’t yet been set.
Prosecutors didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Ireland’s relatives couldn’t be reached.
In 1994, Frank Pauline Jr. came forward and claimed he was with the Schweitzer brothers when Ian Schweitzer ran Ireland’s bike over and then killed her.
But he was interviewed at least seven times and gave inconsistent accounts each time. When it was clear he would be indicted along with the Schweitzers, he tried to take it all back and said he had lied to try to get drug charges dropped against his half-brother, according to court documents.
Pauline was convicted, along with the brothers, and killed by a fellow inmate in a New Mexico prison in 2015.
Myles Breiner, an attorney representing Pauline’s family, said a petition is pending that seeks to have him posthumously exonerated.
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