Dennis is still waiting for the federal 1st Circuit Court of Appeals to respond to his second successive habeas application, which he wrote and filed pro se, i.e., by and for himself. (A habeas corpus appeal asks the federal court to "bring me the body," or in simpler language, if successful, is a federal court order that forces the prisoner's jailer to allow him or her to appear in federal court to appeal a miscarriage of justice. If denied, there is no right to appeal the denial If the 1st Circuit grants his application, Dennis will be allowed to present his claims in a federal district court in Maine and request an evidentiary hearing. Being granted the right to proceed on a second successive habeas motion is one of the most difficult hurdles in our judicial system. Please keep Dennis in your thoughts.
Please find here the third installment of Jordan Bailey’s investigative report on Dennis’s case as published in the Courier-Gazette and in other Courier Publications papers; a Courier editorial on the case; and a letter to the editor submitted by Bill Bunting. Jordan Bailey encouraged Bill to submit a letter after he contacted her regarding an issue raised by her report.
For the record, Jordan’s report of the discovery of documentary evidence that sperm had been recovered from Sarah was in error. She had not realized that a document she had found related to another case.
DENNIS FILES APPEAL TO FEDERAL COURT
In the lengthy interval since the last newsletter there has been a good deal of activity behind the scenes. Investigations concerning possible alternative suspects have been pursued. After extensive consultations with legal experts, Dennis decided that the best course to take for his second successive habeas application was to file pro se, or “for himself,” and request court-appointed counsel.
Dec 23, 2015
FORENSICS EXPERT EXPLAINS WHY DENNIS IS INNOCENT
Jim Moore’s remarkable investigation established time-of-death as a central exculpatory element in Dennis’s case. In 2009 two renowned forensic pathologists, Dr. Cyril Wecht and Dr. Walter Hofman, after independently studying the autopsy report, crime scene photographs, meteorological records, and other related evidence, determined that time-of-death science ruled Dennis out as the killer. The Attorney General’s Office opposed allowing their findings to be considered in court, and Judge Bradford and the Maine Supreme Judicial Court agreed.
Oct 7, 2015
FAIRGOERS OVERWHEMINGLY FAVOR RETRIAL
The 2015 Common Ground Country Fair in Unity, Maine again included a Trial & Error booth. In addition to offering information about Dennis’s case, this year’s booth featured a tally sheet so fairgoers could indicate if they were for or against a retrial. The idea was the brainchild of T&E board member Bernie Huebner.
While only a fraction of the 50,000 people who attended the three-day fair found their way to the Political-Action Tent, let alone to our booth, we were encouraged by the results. At the end of the weekend, the tally was 154 in favor of a retrial, and 4 against.
Sep 14, 2015
NOT GOING AWAY UNTIL JUSTICE IS DONE
The following is a series of recent opinion pieces and letters to the editor concerning Dennis’s case. In short, the media are saying that Trial and Error should accept defeat; our replies below indicate our belief in the opposite.
If you are similarly motivated, please consider writing your own letter to the editor. And, of course, we welcome your financial contributions as well, as the costs involved in obtaining and finally undergoing a new trial are substantial.
May 12, 2015
May 2015 Newsletter
Just a reminder about the May 14th Maine Supreme Court hearing on the Dennis Dechaine case.
If you cannot make it to the hearing, here are two things to consider:
Here is a great example of a letter that was posted recently in the Portland Press Herald:
Apr 20, 2015
TRIAL & ERROR NEWSLETTER…April 4, 2015
Maine Supreme Court to hear Dennis’s case in May; poll shows Mainers favor retrial by almost 2-1
We received word this week that the Maine Supreme Judicial Court (aka the Law Court) will hear oral arguments in Dennis’s case on May 14th. The proceeding will start at 10 a.m. at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland and will be the last chance for the case to be heard by a Maine court.
The trial in which Dennis was convicted was held in 1989 and has been followed by a series of denied attempts to gain a retrial. Should the current appeal also be denied in May, he and his legal team plan to file a federal appeal.
Jan 31, 2015
HELP US SPREAD THE WECHT INTERVIEW
Have you had a chance yet to watch the interview with forensics expert Dr. Cyril Wecht? If not, we urge you to take in this compelling —in fact, riveting— explanation of why the time-of-death evidence makes it impossible for Dennis Dechaine to have committed the crime for which he has been imprisoned for more than 27 years.
You can watch the interview with Dr. Wecht on the homepage of our website at www.trialanderrordennis.org. We have set it up so that viewers can watch the clip entirely on the homepage, then scroll down below the video box and open links to watch or read interviews with Dennis, Court TV’s feature on the case, former AG Jon Lund’s letter calling for a retrial, and more. On the right-hand side of the page is information on how to download a Kindle version of Jim Moore’s book Human Sacrifice: on the Altar of Injustice and how to donate to Trial and Error.
Sep 12, 2014
Once again we thank you for your continued support and ask that you please forward this newsletter to all in your address book. As always, for the latest on the case, please visit our website at www.trialanderrordennis.org.
The Status of Dennis’s Case
In April, 2014, semi-retired Judge Carl Bradford, the trial judge, issued his final denial regarding Dennis’s motion for a new trial under Maine’s 2006 revised post-conviction DNA statute. This motion had originally been filed (under the old statute) in 2003.
The revised statute requires that, “The DNA test results, when considered with all the other evidence in this case, old and new . . . would make it probable that a different verdict would result upon a new trial.” Judge Bradford ruled that this wording applied strictly to DNA evidence, and to evidence admitted in the trial and previous hearings. Thus, he would not allow the introduction of any additional evidence other than DNA evidence.
Apr 10, 2014
As most of you will have heard by now, on April 10 Judge Bradford posted his decision denying Dennis’s motion for a retrial under the provisions of the revised post-conviction DNA statute. It was a long time coming, and no great surprise, although we couldn’t help but hope. In Bradford’s opinion, according to his ruling, even if the members of the jury had heard testimony concerning DNA evidence uncovered since the trial they still would have found Dennis guilty. Judge Bradford interpreted the statute in the narrowest possible way and would not consider any post-trial findings or evidence other than that involving DNA. The fact that one of the original jurors is on record as saying that he would not have voted to convict had he known of the presence of unidentified DNA under Sarah Cherry’s thumbnail thus was not considered. Nor were the findings of two distinguished forensic pathologists that time-of-death science eliminated Dennis as the killer. Bradford’s position is even more unsupportable given that recent rulings by Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court — the “Law Court” — back a much broader interpretation of what constitutes admissible evidence under the revised post-conviction DNA statute than that which Bradford employed.
Feb 28, 2014
On the character of Dennis Dechaine…
As the holidays approached, Dennis was thrilled to hear from Aaron Kinzel, a former inmate at Maine State Prison who has undergone a remarkable transformation. In the following letter to Trail & Error, Aaron tells how Dennis influenced his development, and he offers a special insight into who Dennis Dechaine is.
Nov 11, 2013
Our newsletter this time consists of the report that board member Bernie Huebner wrote up on Friday night, November 8, after coming home from two days spent sitting on hard wooden courtroom benches. (Actually, he had the good sense to bring his own cushion.) Bernie says that board members Bob MacLaughlin and Bill Bunting helped him gather his thoughts.
After reading Bernie’s report and the stories in the newspapers, and hearing the TV and Public Radio stories, you might wonder if Bernie and the reporters attended the same hearing. The reporter for the Press Herald was assigned the story at very short notice, and had no knowledge of this very complex case. He did the best he could, but stated that the scarf belonged to Sarah, a very serious error since it belonged to Dennis, and not only would be expected to have his DNA on it, but could transmit that DNA to her shirt. The reporter for the Bangor Daily News did not understand the provisions of the amended post-conviction DNA statute, which, thanks to the tireless work of then-Representative Ross Paradis, made Dennis’s motion for a retrial even possible. And so on. Bill Bunting recalls trying to give a copy of Human Sacrifice to a neighbor back in 2003, and the neighbor refusing it, saying that he preferred to keep ” an open mind,” and would get his information from the newspapers. Not surprisingly, he was convinced that Dennis was guilty, and probably thought that Bill was a member of the lunatic fringe.