Trial and Error

The Outcry for Justice in the Dennis Dechaine Case

Letters to the Editor - Trial and Error - Dennis Dechaine

Time to dig deeper into Dechaine case

Aug 24, 2015

Thank you for publishing Bernie Huebner’s Aug. 17 letter, “Two articles suggest Dechaine case not over.” In doing so, you have brought to public attention a vital piece of information about the Sarah Cherry murder case that might have led the jury to a verdict other than the conviction of Dennis Dechaine, who has now been imprisoned for 27 years.

While we don’t know for sure if the written statement Sheila Appleton gave to Detective Steven Drake said her brother had confessed to the murder, we do know that statement is missing from police files. We also know that an acquaintance of Appleton has claimed publicly that a sobbing Appleton told her about the confession immediately after her brother allegedly made it.

Read more.

Two articles suggest Dechaine case not over

Aug 17, 2015

My Aug. 10 newspaper has two front-page articles that suggest the Dennis Dechaine case could be far from over.

One, “Missive’s location remains mystery,” describes an alleged note — now missing — from Gov. Paul LePage threatening to withhold $500,000 in state funding to Good Will-Hinckley if the board of directors did not rescind its job offer to House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick.

Read more.

Something always odd about Dechaine’s case

Aug 16, 2015

I read Judge John Benoit’s recent Another View, “‘Amen’ to call for end to Dechaine saga,” and while I understand that he’s tired of seeing people defend a possibly innocent man, I have some other thoughts.

Dennis Dechaine’s legal appeals don’t change the case. The facts are still what they are, and that is why I think he deserves a new trial. Something has always been odd about this case, and many people agree with me.

Read more.

Letter to the editor: All evidence in Dechaine case should go before a jury

Aug 7, 2015

Re: “Greg Kesich: It is time for Dechaine’s champions to lay case to rest” (July 22):

According to Portland Press Herald editorial page editor Greg Kesich, retired Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent Jim Moore “uses the medical examiner’s testimony to make his own time-of-death calculation, which he says clears (Dennis) Dechaine because (murder victim Sarah) Cherry would have still been alive when he was taken into custody.”

In fact, if one does the math, Deputy Chief State Medical Examiner Ronald Roy’s initial testimony, based on standard forensic science, also placed Sarah’s death after Dechaine’s whereabouts were known.

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Who keeps Maine Attorney General Honest?

Jul 30, 2015

 In 2006, accusations of crimes by the AG’s prosecutors were publicly aired. They included concealing evidence, destroying evidence and using perjured police testimony in a murder trial.
The accusations were supported by official reports found in the AG’s “confidential file,” kept secret until the Legislature ordered the AG to make it available to the public under the state’s Freedom of Access Act (where anyone may read it today).
The AG handpicked three private lawyers to “investigate” those allegations.
Those handpicked lawyers issued an opinion that none of the accusations against the AG’s people “have any substantial merit.” Then they fought all the way to Maine’s Supreme Court to avoid having to show any evidence supporting that opinion, and won.    Why did the AG ask that panel of private lawyers to investigate?

Read more: Who keeps...

Trial & Error will disband only after Dechaine retrial

Jul 9, 2015

According to Press Herald editor Greg Kesich (commentary, “It is time for Dechaine’s Trial & Error champions to lay his case to rest,” July 23), retired ATF agent Jim Moore “uses the medical examiner’s testimony to make his own time-of-death calculation, which he says clears (Dennis) Dechaine because Cherry would have still been alive when he was taken into custody.”

In fact, if one does the math, assistant state medical examiner Ronald Roy’s initial testimony, based on standard forensic science, also placed Sarah’s death after Dechaine’s whereabouts were known. More recently, renowned forensic pathologists Drs. Cyril Wecht and Walter Hofman, having studied the time-of-death evidence, concluded that Dechaine could not have killed Sarah.

Read more.

Claim of Dechaine’s “confessions” doesn’t stand up

May 26, 2015

Kennebec Journal / Morning Sentinel

Donald Macomber, the state’s attorney at the May 14 Law Court hearing on the appeal of Dennis Dechaine, told the justices Dechaine had confessed three times. His claim of three confessions does not stand up to scrutiny.

The first was allegedly related by Dechaine’s lawyer George Carlton to Fern LaRochelle of the attorney general’s office. In fact, Carlton did not tell LaRochelle that his client confessed; there was only Carlton’s assumption that Dechaine committed the crime. “When they can’t remember, it means they’re guilty,” Carlton told a Trial and Error investigator. Of course, Dechaine couldn’t remember what he hadn’t done.

Second, state Trooper Alfred Hendsbee’s notes fail to corroborate the suggestion in his trial testimony — craftily elicited by prosecutor Eric Wright — that Dechaine confessed. In fact, there is no mention at all of a confession in his notes, which seems strange, unless of course there was none.

Read more: Claim of...

Scarf ownership vital detail in Dechaine case

May 24, 2015

Kennebec Journal / Morning Sentinel

Scarf ownership vital detail in Dechaine case

At the hearing before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court regarding the Dennis Dechaine case, one justice referred to the scarf with which Sarah Cherry was strangled as “Sarah’s scarf.”

While common sense should tell us that it would be most unlikely that a girl kidnapped from a home that was not her own on a sweltering summer day would have been wearing a woolen scarf, anyone who has followed this case knows that simple logic should never be assumed.

Read more: Scarf...

Dechaine case deserves greater exposure

May 22, 2015

Portland Press Herald

Twelve years ago, Maine’s Legislature ordered the attorney general to open his “confidential file” on the Dechaine case. Now, under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act, anybody can see that file.

Documents there prove that prosecutors presented false testimony (detectives’ claims that Dechaine made incriminating admissions), and incinerated DNA evidence (bloody fingernails, vaginal swabs, hair on Sarah’s body known to be neither hers nor Dechaine’s) just before an appeal where he’d repeat the request for DNA tests he’d made even before his trial, a request prosecutors opposed and prevented back then. There’s more in that file, much more.

One bloody thumbnail did survive because a court clerk mistakenly returned it to defense lawyer Thomas Connolly after Dechaine’s trial. Tested, it revealed DNA from Sarah, herself, and an unknown male – not Dechaine.

Read more: Dechaine case...

Two simple facts enough to warrant new Dechaine trial

May 22, 2015

Portland Press Herald

For almost 26 years, our state has repeatedly denied Dennis Dechaine’s request to present evidence the jury never got to hear. After the Maine Supreme Court finishes deliberating his May 14 appeal of a Superior Court decision to deny a retrial, it may well happen again.

But shouldn’t two simple facts have warranted reopening the case years ago?

First, even though the defendant offered to cover expenses, the judge denied his request to have his DNA tested and compared to crime-scene DNA before the trial in 1989. Prosecutors claimed such testing would delay the trial, and that it was unreliable. This, even though they had already taken DNA samples in a prior case that were later used to find and convict the perpetrator.

Read more: Two simple...

Wrongfully convicted

May 19, 2015

Bangor Daily News

Many that are innocent have been accused of committing a crime that they have not committed. Kalief Browder of the Bronx, New York, was 16 years old when he was accused of stealing someone’s backpack with a credit card, debit card, a digital camera, an iPod and $700 inside.

He was arrested two weeks after this incident supposedly occurred. Browder spent three years awaiting trial.

Read more: Wrongfully...

Grief of victim’s mother shouldn’t prevent new trial

May 18, 2015

Portland Press Herald

I read the Associated Press article on Dennis Dechaine’s request for a new trial in the 1988 killing of Sarah Cherry (“Dennis Dechaine asks state’s high court for new trial based on DNA evidence,” May 14).

At one point Justice Andrew Mead asked Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber what the harm in another trial would be. Pointing to Debra Crosman, the victim’s mother, Macomber answered, “The harm is sitting right over there.”

I am not, in any way, undermining her grief. But with all due respect – and I mean all due respect – what does her grief have to do with the innocence of a man spending the rest of his life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit? There were two tragedies that day.

Beverly Gallant


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