News 01.25.11

Hawaii Man Freed After 20 Years in Prison

A Hawaii judge tossed out the conviction of a Maui man last week, more than 20 years after he was convicted of a crime he said he didn’t commit. Hawaii Innocence Project client Alvin Jardine was set free while prosecutors decide whether to retry him.

After two trials ended in hung juries, Jardine was convicted at a third trial of a rape and burglary based in part on an eyewitness identification and sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Jardine maintained his innocence throughout his trials and claimed to be home at the time of the attack.  He also gave up the possibility of parole by refusing to enter sex-abuse treatment that would have required him to admit guilt, according to the Star Advertiser.

All evidence from the case had been destroyed with the exception of a tablecloth that was covering a chair that the perpetrator used during and after the attack. DNA testing obtained by the Hawaii Innocence Project suggested that DNA evidence came from an unknown perpetrator and excluded Jardine.

Based on the new DNA test results, a Maui Circuit Judge overturned Jardine’s convictions on Friday and ordered a new trial.

“He was overwhelmed with emotion,” said Honolulu attorney and Hawaii Innocence Project member Brook Hart, who represented Jardine. “He was in disbelief that after all this time, after spending almost his entire adult life in jail, that the justice system finally worked properly to free him.”

If the judge hadn’t agreed with Hart’s assertion of his client’s innocence, the Hawaii Innocence Project was ready to argue the reliability of the victim’s identification.  But the judge ruled the original evidence was insufficient and that the new DNA tests would have likely resulted in a not guilty verdict.

The new trial is scheduled for June 27. Prosecutors have not announced whether they will retry Jardine.


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