Hawaii Innocence Project letter asks state AG to ‘take action’ against retired judge

  • LAWSON
  • HEAVEY
  • DANA IRELAND

The Hawaii Innocence Project is accusing a retired Seattle judge of interfering with its attempt to exonerate a man convicted of the Christmas Eve 1991 abduction, rape and murder of Dana Ireland.

In a letter to Attorney General Russell Suzuki dated Monday, HIP, which represents Albert “Ian” Schweitzer in a petition seeking Schweitzer’s conviction be vacated and he be granted a new trial, alleges Mike Heavey, who is not licensed to practice law in Hawaii, is providing unsolicited and unauthorized legal advice to individuals associated with Schweitzer’s case.

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Copies of HIP’s letter also were sent to the Hawaii State Bar Association, the Hawaii Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the Washington state Office of Disciplinary Counsel and Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth.

The correspondence asks Suzuki’s office to “take action in accordance with the grievances HIP has set forth in this letter.”

Schweitzer was one of three men convicted in the highly publicized Ireland case and is serving a life sentence in an Arizona prison. His younger brother, Shawn, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to five years probation and a year in jail. The third man, Frank Pauline Jr. — whose confession, later recanted, implicated the Schweitzers in the case — was murdered in a New Mexico prison while serving a life sentence in the case.

Since 2014, Heavey, on behalf of Seattle-based Judges for Justice, has publicly espoused a theory that all three are innocent and that a single killer, whom Heavey has described as a voyeur obsessed with Ireland, ran her over with a pickup truck on Kapoho Kai Drive, which was inundated by lava earlier this year, then took the badly injured woman to a remote fishing path in Waa Waa, raped her and left her to die.

Heavey recently produced a video titled “Who Killed Dana Ireland? Part 1” and last week offered Hawaii Island prosecutors $10,000 to pay for genealogical DNA comparison testing of a key piece of evidence in the Ireland case.

Attorney general spokesman Krishna F. Jayaram acknowledged Tuesday that the AG’s office received the letter, which is signed by HIP attorneys Brook Hart and William A. Harrison and HIP Co-Director Kenneth Lawson. The office declined further comment and didn’t specify what the AG is empowered to do if it finds HIP’s complaint has merit.

“The letter is lengthy and the attachments are numerous; until we review everything it would be premature for me to say anything further,” Jayaram said in an email.

The letter describes Heavey’s knowledge of the case as “ill-informed.” It alleges Heavey contacted witnesses in the case and in at least one instance provided what could be construed as unauthorized legal advice. It also claims Heavey “has repeatedly contacted experts retained by HIP, requesting case updates and confidential information about the experts’ DNA testing results.”

According to the letter, Heavey ignored an advisory letter sent to him in 2015 by the Washington State Bar Association. According to HIP, Schweitzer’s mother, Linda Schweitzer, filed a complaint with the WSBA “regarding Mr. Heavey’s willful disregard of HIP’s requests” that Heavey cease and desist.

HIP’s letter claims Heavey’s “most recent email to Ian’s legal team, prosecutors and Linda alleges we are mishandling Ian’s case and not doing an adequate job in getting Ian out of prison.”

“Though entirely without merit and not based on facts, Mr. Heavey’s claims that we have made mistakes in our representation of Ian, certainly could damage our relationship with our client and his family,” the letter states. “… We sincerely believe that if Mr. Heavey continues, a successful outcome of Ian’s case, at least from Ian’s point of view, will be in jeopardy.”

Lawson said HIP has had to field calls from people under the mistaken impression that Heavey is working with HIP or is authorized to represent Ian Schweitzer, taking time away from the group’s actual work on Schweitzer’s case.

Lawson added HIP is being assisted by Barry Scheck, co-founder and co-director of the Innocence Project, who gained national repute for his knowledge of DNA evidence during the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

“The New York Innocence Project has reviewed the facts and the transcripts (of the trial) and the police reports. We have reviewed them over the past few years, thoroughly. (Heavey) is factually wrong in his video. That’s all I can say at this point,” Lawson said.

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“Judges for Justice is a … nonprofit innocence organization that embraces and exercises the constitutional rights of free speech and free press,” Heavey said via email Tuesday evening. “We speak about wrongful convictions, we create documentaries on wrongful convictions and … publish them on our website, we publish expert reports on our website. We do not practice law in Hawaii or any other state nor have we interfered in their case, in fact they should welcome our reporting because we show that their client is innocent.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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