Sep 10, 2008
Kennebec Journal – Morning Sentinel
Through DNA analysis, the Innocence Project has gained freedom for 220 innocent people convicted of violent crimes across the United States.
Wrongful convictions happen in every state. Maine is no exception. The Maine Attorney General’s Office has repeatedly used DNA technology to solve crimes and win convictions. However, it falls short in recognizing the value of DNA technology in post-conviction exonerations.
Dennis Dechaine has served 20 years of a life sentence for the murder of Sarah Cherry. He asked for DNA analysis to be done before his trial at his expense. The judge denied his request.
The Attorney General’s Office incinerated hairs, the rape kit and other potentially DNA rich evidence while the case was still in the appeal process.
A 2001 DNA statute allowed for post-conviction DNA analysis to be performed on the remaining evidence. In 2004, the Maine Crime Laboratory revealed a male DNA profile under the victim’s fingernail that does not match Dechaine. Further testing ruled out male family members, police officers or medical examiner office personnel who may have inadvertently contaminated the evidence. Nevertheless the Attorney General’s Office continues to refuse to acknowledge the importance of post-conviction DNA analysis in exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals like Dechaine. It is time for the Attorney General’s Office to step up and support a new trial for Dechaine.