The Hawaii Innocence Project, a troop of attorneys and University of Hawaii law students striving to exonerate innocent prisoners, has a new top litigator.

Longtime Hawaii attorney L. Richard “Rick” Fried Jr. has joined HIP as a volunteer co-director, a role he now shares with faculty specialist Ken Lawson.

Fried is replacing emeritus law professor Randy Roth.

Attorney Rick Fried joins the Hawaii Innocence Project as co-director. UH William S. Richardson School of Law

Part of an international network of independent nonprofits working to free innocent men and women from prison, HIP pairs groups of students and supervising attorneys to review hundreds of cases each year. 

Hundreds of wrongfully convicted prisoners have been freed from prisons across the U.S. in recent decades due to advances in DNA testing.

All told, three Hawaii men have been released from prison through HIP’s efforts. The group claims that the state of Hawaii has spent $7.6 million to wrongfully incarcerate innocent HIP clients.

HIP is currently working on three cases, including a bid to vacate the 2000 conviction of Albert “Ian” Schweitzer. Schweitzer is one of three men convicted in the murder of Dana Ireland, the 23-year-old victim of a brutal Christmas Eve abduction, rape and murder on the Big Island in 1991.

Recently The Innocence Project in New York agreed to co-counsel with HIP and jointly represent Ian Schweitzer. Both groups are at odds with a retired judge from Seattle whose campaign to free Schweitzer, according to HIP, is interfering with its legal efforts.

The retired judge, Mike Heavey, is the force behind Judges for Justice, a nonprofit formed in 2013 to identify wrongful convictions, gather supporting expert opinions and rally a public outcry for speedy exonerations. He believes Ireland’s killer is still at large and the three men convicted of the crime are innocent, locked up on faulty and incomplete evidence to assuage political pressure and mitigate public fear.

Read more about the conflict between these two exoneration groups here.

In addition to Schweitzer, HIP is simultaneously working to exonerate Gordon Cordeiro and Clifford Hubbard.

Fried, who already has been involved in assisting HIP as a volunteer supervising attorney, said that he hoped to be able to add expertise from his decades of experience as a litigator.

“I was very surprised to learn how many innocent people were incarcerated for crimes they did not commit,” he said, according to a press release from the UH William S. Richardson School of Law. “Many of these people are wrongfully incarcerated due to misidentification at a line-up or picked out from photographs.”

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