Murder convict’s former defense attorney admits case deserves another look

A move to re-examine the Dana Ireland murder case has a defense attorney admitting that he should have been able to do more for his client.

Albert Ian Schweitzer was found guilty of the rape and murder of Dana Ireland, which occurred on Christmas Eve 1991. The 23-year-old was hit by a vehicle on a secluded road in Puna, raped, and left to die.

The Hawaii Innocence Project filed a motion for the court to take another look at the case citing, among other things, that Schweitzer received ineffective counsel.

One of the two attorneys who defended Schweitzer agrees, and says he believes Schweitzer did not get a fair trial.

Attorney Peter Esser is in an unusual spot, because admitting that Schweitzer did not receive good representation in the trial would help the Hawaii Innocence Project’s claim, and could eventually set Schweitzer free.

Three years after Ireland was murdered, Frank Pauline Jr. confessed to the killing and testified against the Schweitzer brothers. He was eventually sentenced to life in prison and killed in a New Mexico prison in 2015.

Shawn Schweitzer was 16 years old when Ireland was murdered. In 2000, he was found guilty of manslaughter and served a year in jail and five years probation.

Meanwhile, Albert Ian Schweitzer received a life sentence, which he is serving in an Arizona prison.

Esser represented Albert Ian Schweitzer in his appeal and admits, “This guy was utterly unfairly treated. It was a bad trial.”

Esser says the reason Schweitzer was treated unfairly was there was too much pretrial publicity, so it was impossible for his client to get a fair trial. He says the trial should have at least been moved to another county, like Oahu or Maui.

“It wouldn’t help entirely because KHON stories were statewide, but it would help to a certain extent because the Big Island was just overwhelmed with this story for years, so it would have been better,” he said.

Esser says he did the best he could for Schweitzer at the time and he doesn’t object to being called ineffective if it will help his former client get out of prison.

“I don’t want to deny any of their claims for a couple of reasons,” he said. “I want this guy to succeed, so I don’t want to undermine any of these claims. I want this guy to get a new trial. He deserves one.”

The Hawaii Innocence Project also wants DNA evidence retested, saying none of the DNA presented matched with Schweitzer’s.

KHON2 spoke with David Carter, a forensic sciences expert, who says the technology today can provide more accurate information.

“Using these new techniques because they give more information or maybe you’d say they just give better resolution, and the reason why you want that is it just gives you more confidence in the results that you interpret,” Carter explained.

We also spoke one of the deputy prosecutors who handled the case, Charlene Iboshi. She says that based on the evidence against Schweitzer, it was a rightful conviction.

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