Oct 18, 2008
Portland Press Herald
As Dennis Dechaine awaits a yet-to-be scheduled hearing to decide on a retrial, old concerns resurface. For if Maine custom prevails, the judge who will say yes or no to granting the new trial will be the same judge, Carl Bradford, whose work on the case has been seriously questioned.
Among Judge Bradford¹s controversial rulings at the original murder trial in 1989 was one to deny the defendant¹s request for DNA testing. Tests conducted since then show the DNA found on the victim¹s body was not Dechaine¹s.
Unless the judge recuses himself, how can we be sure the retrial request will be handled without prejudice? How can we be sure it would not be denied simply to prevent scrutiny of earlier decisions? How can we be sure Dechaine, who is just one of an estimated 20,000 wrongfully convicted inmates in U.S. prisons, has gotten a fair shot?
Among those publicly calling for a retrial are two retired trial lawyers. One, Weld Henshaw of Brunswick, says he was a longtime friend of Judge Bradford before ultimately putting justice above friendship. The other, Jon Lund, was a prosecutor, Maine Attorney General, and Chair of the Criminal Law Revision Commission. Yet their stands have received virtually no media attention.
So, it comes down to you and me. If we don¹t ask questions, write letters, rattle cages and otherwise shine the light of public awareness on the Dechaine case, who will? If we don¹t make sure our justice system is just, who will?