Trial and Error

The Outcry for Justice in the Dennis Dechaine Case

News Articles - Trial and Error - Dennis Dechaine

Is new DNA information enough for ‘reasonable doubt’ in Dechaine case?

Oct 13, 2012

New information casts doubts on Dennis Dechaine’s role in the death of Sarah Cherry, and confirms the alternative suspect theory, an analyst hired to interpret DNA data from a 24-year-old murder case says.

Dr. Greg Hampikian, a DNA analyst from Idaho hired by Dechaine’s attorney, said Friday that his method of interpreting the results excludes Dechaine as a suspect because of the absence of a key marker present in Dechaine’s biological profile.

“It is clear from the ligature results that more than one male contributed DNA to the scarf; in fact there are at least three male contributors based on the result,” wrote Hampikian in a report to attorney Steven Peterson.

DNA lab Orchid Cellmark in Texas reported that DNA found on a scarf used to strangle 12-year-old Cherry included a mixture of samples from at least three different men. Cellmark states in its report provided by Peterson that Dechaine could not be excluded as a suspect. The testing was paid for by an organization called the Innocence Project, which works to exonerate people it believes are wrongly convicted.

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By Christopher Cousins
Staff Writer Bangor Daily News

Male DNA found on girl’s clothing in Dechaine case

Sep 27, 2012

PORTLAND — Further testing of evidence from the 1988 murder of 12-year-old Sarah Cherry has revealed male DNA on the girl’s T-shirt, her bra and the scarf that was used to strangle her.

Dennis Dechaine, convicted of murdering 12-year-old Sarah Cherry in 1988, is bidding for a new trial based on a change in state law that says the prisoner only needs to show that new DNA evidence likely would have led to an acquittal.

The DNA has not yet been compared with any other samples, including DNA from Dechaine, men who worked on the investigation or the felons in a state database.

“The thing we’re hoping for — of course, we could have it backfire on us — is that this could prove it’s not Dennis Dechaine,” said Steve Peterson, Dechaine’s court-appointed lawyer.

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Sept. 25, 2012…

By Ann S. Kim
Staff Writer Portland Press Herald

Evidence in Dechaine Case to Be DNA Tested

Sep 24, 2012

There’s a potentially major development in one of the most high profile abduction- murder cases in Maine’s history. Recent DNA testing of several items of clothing found at the crime scene where 12-year-old Sara Cherry was killed in 1988 shows the presence of an unknown male or males. The DNA profile of the man convicted of the crime, Dennis Dechaine, is now being sent to a lab. The results could either help Dechaine, or place him at the scene …


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Dechaine hearing wraps up for the week

Jun 15, 2012

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A hearing to determine whether or not Dennis Dechaine will be granted a new trial after his conviction for the murder of 12-year old Sarah Cherry wrapped up for now.

The murder case has been one of the most talked about ever in Maine. Legal experts say they have never seen a case like this before. It has been making its way through the court system for more than 2-decades now.

Dechaine and his attorney are clinging to hope that a small DNA sample taken from Sarah’s fingernail, 24 years ago, will be enough to get Dechaine a new trial. The DNA matches Sarah and an unidentified male. It does not match Dennis Dechaine.

Thursday there was scientific testimony based on the reliability of the DNA sample. The state presented an expert who said the sample was likely contaminated at some point over the last 24 years.

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Experts differ on DNA in Dechaine case

Jun 15, 2012

http://www.kjonline.com/news/Experts-differ-on-possibility-of-DNA-contamination-in-Dechaine-case-.html

By Ann S. Kim
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The hearing on Dennis Dechaine’s bid for a new trial today featured expert witnesses with conflicting views about the likelihood that the DNA evidence at issue was the result of contamination.

Dechaine is serving a life sentence for the 1988 kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Sarah Cherry of Bowdoin.

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Dechaine witnesses at odds over DNA evidence

Jun 15, 2012

http://www.pressherald.com/news/dechaine-witnesses-conflict-over-dna-evidence_2012-06-15.html

At issue is whether male DNA found under Sarah Cherry’s thumbnail may have been caused by contamination.
By Ann S. Kim
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – Expert witnesses who testified Thursday in Dennis Dechaine’s hearing on a new trial offered contrasting views on whether the DNA evidence at issue is a result of contamination.

Three DNA experts, with doctorates in genetics and extensive backgrounds in forensic science, testified about the partial DNA profile that is at the center of the multiday hearing. Dechaine’s attorney, Steve Peterson, is trying to convince a judge that the jurors would not have convicted Dechaine of the 1988 murder and kidnapping of 12-year-old Sarah Cherry had they known about the DNA from an unknown male on the girl’s left thumbnail.

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Witness suggests more DNA testing at Dechaine hearing

Jun 15, 2012

http://www.onlinesentinel.com/news/witness-suggests-more-dna-testing-at-dechaine-hearing_2012-06-13.html

PORTLAND — More testing of items from the investigation of Sarah Cherry’s murder could help clarify whether the DNA found on one of her thumbnails came from contamination of that evidence, a witness said Wednesday at a hearing on Dennis Dechaine’s motion for a new trial.

Swabs of items from the 1988 kidnapping and murder of the 12-year-old Bowdoin girl have already been tested for male DNA and come up negative.

The partial DNA profile extracted from the girl’s left thumbnail is at the center of Dechaine’s attempt to get another trial. He was convicted of killing Cherry in 1989.

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Witness in Dechaine retrial bid: Further lab tests are needed

Jun 13, 2012

PORTLAND — Further testing on items from the Sarah Cherry murder case could shed light on whether DNA on one of the girl’s fingernails was the result of contamination, a defense witness testified today during a hearing for Dennis Dechaine’s bid for a new trial.

Dechaine, 54, is serving a life sentence for the 1988 kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Sarah Cherry in Bowdoin. He is seeking a new trial based on a partial DNA profile from an unknown male that was extracted from a clipping of Sarah Cherry’s left thumbnail.

Dechaine, the girl’s family members, law enforcement officer on the case and medical examiner’s office staff are among those who have been ruled out as the donor.

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Dechaine lawyer tries to sway judge to allow DNA evidence

Jun 13, 2012

PORTLAND — DNA evidence from Sarah Cherry’s left thumbnail would have been a game changer had it been allowed in Dennis Dechaine’s murder trial in 1989, the prisoner’s lawyer argued Tuesday.

“DNA’s been a topic almost from the beginning of the case. It still is today, almost 24 years later,” Steve Peterson said during the first day of a hearing on Dechaine’s motion for a new trial.

Dechaine, 54, is serving a life sentence for kidnapping and murdering 12-year-old Sarah Cherry in 1988. To get another trial, he will have to convince Superior Court Justice Carl Bradford that jurors would not have convicted him if they had known about the DNA.

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Dennis Dechaine’s lawyer pushes DNA validity

Jun 12, 2012

Dennis Dechaine’s lawyer pushes DNA validity but at the hearing on the convicted killer’s bid for a new trial in Maine, the state tries to show how easily the evidence could have been contaminated.

PORTLAND — DNA evidence from Sarah Cherry’s left thumbnail would have been a “game changer” had it been allowed in Dennis Dechaine’s murder trial in 1989, the prisoner’s lawyer argued Tuesday.

“DNA’s been a topic almost from the beginning of the case. It still is today, almost 24 years later,” Steve Peterson said during the first day of a hearing on his client’s motion for a new trial.

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Dennis Dechaine Seeks New Trial Two Decades After Murder Conviction

Jun 12, 2012

Twenty-three years after he began serving a life sentence for the kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Sarah Cherry of Bowdoin, Dennis Dechaine was back in court today seeking a new trial. Dechaine has had several previous unsuccessful appeals. But even before his 1989 trial, Dechaine and his attorney argued for DNA testing, saying it could help clear his name. And now they must convince a judge that what DNA evidence currently exists would have been enough to change jurors’ minds had they considered it at the time.

Few Maine murder trials have been as well-publicized, or attracted as large a following, as Dennis Dechaine’s. The crime was horrific: a 12-year-old girl abducted from her first babysitting job in rural Bowdoin, eventually found tortured and strangled in the woods about three miles away.

Dennis Dechaine, a 30-year-old farmer, immediately became the prime suspect. A notebook and receipt with his name on it were found in the driveway of the house where Cherry had been working. Dechaine’s truck was found several hundred feet from her body. Rope used to bind her wrists was consistent with rope found in his truck and at his farm.

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Reported By: Susan Sharon of MPBN

Court hears Dechaine’s bid for new trial

20100322 dechaine 2Jun 12, 2012

PORTLAND — Dennis Dechaine is in court today making a bid for a new trial.

Dennis Dechaine in 2010 photo

Dechaine is now serving a life sentence for the 1988 murder and kidnapping of 12-year-old Sarah Cherry in Bowdoin.

Dechaine’s lawyer, Steve Peterson, is trying to convince Superior Court Justice Carl O. Bradford that the jury would not have convicted him had they been presented with DNA evidence extracted from a clipping of the girl’s left thumbnail. Testing indicates that the victim’s blood as well as a partial DNA profile from an unknown male donor are present on the nail clipping.

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