Trial and Error

The Outcry for Justice in the Dennis Dechaine Case

Evidence favoring Dechaine piles up


Mar 15, 2010


Dennis Dechaine is shown in a 2005 file photo while serving a sentence at the Maine State Prison, where he remains today.

The Associated Press

Thanks to the Portland Press Herald for publishing an article on its front page about new opinions relating to the Dennis Dechaine case (“Analyses by two experts offer hope to Dechaine.” Feb. 25).
It is interesting that the prosecutor in the case was not and is not interested in two key pieces of evidence.

One is murder victim Sarah Cherry’s time of death. Prosecutor William Stokes states, “Dr. (Ronald) Roy never gave, and the state never relied upon, a precise time of death.” If the prosecutor’s job was to seek justice, why didn’t the medical examiner give, and why didn’t the state rely upon, the estimated time of death?

Was this because the evidence did not support the state’s case against Mr. Dechaine since, at the estimated time of death, based on the autopsy, Mr. Dechaine was already in police custody?

The second piece of evidence is DNA. Again, the prosecution viewed this as inconsequential. Inconsequential? Dozens of innocent people are being exonerated as a result of DNA evidence, many saved from death row. I dare say they do not consider DNA evidence inconsequential.

As for the DNA being transferred during the autopsy, it has been determined that the DNA belongs to an unknown male and not to Mr. Dechaine or any male present at the autopsy.

One can only wonder why the prosecution continues to downplay evidence that exonerates Mr. Dechaine.

Genie Nakell

Perhaps the conclusion by two renowned forensic pathologists, Dr. Cyril Wecht and Dr. Walter Hofman, that Sarah Cherry probably died 16 to 20 hours after Dennis Dechaine was in police custody, will mark the beginning of the ending of this tragic and shameful episode of Maine history.

Deputy Attorney General William Stokes’ response, inferring that death occurred long after the killer left the scene, is also notable in that Stokes did not mention that Sarah’s neck was constricted to 3 inches or less, surely resulting in a quick death.

Stokes has stated that the DNA of an unknown male found under the girl’s thumbnail bears no logical connection to the killer, while prosecutor Eric Wright has claimed that the DNA is of no significance because Dechaine had no scratches on him!

At trial, the state successfully opposed DNA testing, and after Dechaine filed an appeal, Deputy Attorney General Fern LaRochelle ordered the incineration of possible DNA evidence.

Over the past 21 years, not one new fact has surfaced supporting the state’s case against Dechaine, while a mountain of exculpatory evidence – including proof that the damning testimony of two detectives was contradicted by their own notes – has been uncovered.

For the past 21 years, Dennis Dechaine has sought a new trial, one in which a jury would hear all of the evidence. In effect, the state would also be on trial, and perhaps that is why Stokes, in increasingly desperate opposition, makes statements that would be laughable were the circumstances not so tragic.

William Bunting

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