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DNA gets rape charges dismissed

By Rosemarie Bernardo

LAST UPDATED: 1:32 a.m. HST, Jul 30, 2011

Alvin F. Jardine III spent nearly 20 years in prison for a Maui rape his attorney says Jardine did not commit.

On July 21, Jardine walked out of a courtroom a free man, and he has the Hawaii Innocence Project to thank.

It was the first conviction to be set aside because of work by the Hawaii Innocence Project since it began in 2005. Director Virginia Hench, a law professor at the William S. Richardson School of Law, which operates the project, said Jardine's was one of the first cases it received.

On July 21 Maui Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza approved a motion to dismiss four counts of first-degree sexual assault, three counts of attempted first-degree sexual assault, kidnapping, first-degree terroristic threatening and first-degree burglary against Jardine for the December 1990 sexual assault case involving a 25-year-old Haiku woman.

The dismissal came six months after Maui Circuit Judge Joel August overturned convictions against Jardine based on DNA evidence obtained by the Hawaii Innocence Project.

In January, Jardine was released from prison upon posting bail. August had ordered a new trial that was to be held in June based on the evidence.

Attorney Brook Hart, who represented Jardine, said DNA results showed that evidence found on a tablecloth that was placed on a chair where the assault occurred did not match Jardine's. It was reported a man broke into the woman's home, held her at knifepoint and repeatedly raped her for hours.

DNA testing, Hart said, wasn't available in 1990 to absolve Jardine of the charges. Jardine served nearly 20 years of his 35-year sentence before he was released.

"He spent the best years of his life in prison," Hart said, noting that Jardine's daughter was 4 months old when he was incarcerated. "He lost the opportunity to be an effective father with her until this past January when he got out on bail.

"Mr. Jardine was completely innocent of this offense."

Jardine can file an application on July 21 to the Department of the Attorney General to request that his record be cleared. The request takes 120 days to process.

Deputy Prosecutor Robert Rivera said the department decided to dismiss the charges against Jardine because they didn't want the victim or her family to go through another trial. Three previous jury trials had been held: two that ended in a hung jury and the one in which Jardine was found guilty.

"We made a decision not to go forward after consulting with the victim, and we made a determination that it was in the best interest of her and her family that they not go through a fourth trial and not be re-traumatized 20 years later," Rivera said.

He added, "The victim has not wavered in her identification of the defendant as the man who sexually assaulted her 20 years ago."

Rivera contends the DNA results did not have much relevance to the case because there was no evidence or testimony that any sexual assault occurred on the tablecloth. "Our office rebuts any inference that the DNA results exonerates or exculpates the defendant in this case," he said.

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