The Hawaii Innocence Project (HIP) has been a driving force in the fight against wrongful convictions in the state of Hawaii. One of the most prominent cases that HIP has been involved in is that of Albert “Ian Schweitzer”, who was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder in 1991. His conviction was overturned due to new DNA evidence, as well as faulty forensic evidence and misconduct by police and prosecutors. The case began when Williams' ex-wife was found dead in a shallow pond in Waukegan, several days after her disappearance. She had died from blunt force trauma and had defensive injuries, indicating a struggle with her assailant.
Despite the fact that Williams was the only possible suspect, local police and the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force ignored other leads in the case. He was arrested and, in February 1994, found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The theory of the State in the trial was that Williams murdered his ex-wife so he could move to California, where he was being relocated to a naval ship, with his children and his current wife. However, it has since come to light that there was misconduct and suppression of evidence by the prosecutor in this case, as well as one of the lead detectives, Lou Tessman, who at the time was the deputy commander of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force. Williams was first reported missing on Friday, September. He was questioned for 13 hours by Gurnee Police Department investigators and maintained his innocence throughout.
He was allowed to return home but was later arrested for his ex-wife's murder. Williams has always maintained, and testified in his own defense at trial, that he never confessed or made any incriminating statements, but instead asked for an attorney. At the time of the trial, there were already two major contradictions in Detective Tessman's story. First, from the commander of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, Charles Fagan, who had testified under oath in a pre-trial proceeding (attended by the chief prosecutor) that Williams made no statement, declined to be interviewed and asked for an attorney. After Williams' arrest, then-state attorney Michael Waller publicly told the media that Williams had not made any statement to the police and, instead, had asked for an attorney.
However, Williams' defense attorney never raised this and the prosecution allowed Detective Tessman's false testimony to be presented. In addition to this misconduct and suppression of evidence by police and prosecutors, it has come to light that Detective Tessman has an established pattern and practice of misconduct that involves fabricating evidence of confession from innocent people that leads to their wrongful convictions. There are several cases in which Detective Tessman has been charged with such a crime, and among them are two high-profile exoneration cases in Lake County involving Juan Rivera and Jason Strong. The Hawaii Innocence Project, along with other organizations such as Relativity's Justice for Change program and The Innocence Project were able to use their resources to find critical evidence that led to Ian Schweitzer's exoneration. This included Pauline's testimony as well as clear DNA evidence proving his innocence. Ian is represented by Kenneth Lawson (co-director of HIP), Jennifer Brown (associate director), William Harrison and Brooke Hart (HIP volunteer attorneys), Virginia Hench (former HIP director), Susan Friedman (Innocence Project principal attorney), Barry Scheck (co-founder and special counsel) and Natalie Baker (post-conviction litigation intern).The misapplication of forensic science has contributed to 53% of wrongful convictions in The Innocence Project cases.
The organization has long advocated for national reform that includes system-wide monitoring, full disclosure of whistleblower testimony as well as instructions to juries about incentives included and possible fallibility of evidence from imprisoned informants. The work done by organizations like The Hawaii Innocence Project is invaluable when it comes to uncovering wrongful convictions. Through their tireless efforts they have been able to help free innocent people who have been wrongfully convicted due to misconduct or faulty evidence. Their work is a testament to their commitment to justice for all.