Trial and Error

The Outcry for Justice in the Dennis Dechaine Case

Letters to the editor, Aug. 7, 2010 Dechaine case keeps readers involved

portland press herald 3030437 001Aug 7, 2010

Nowhere is the need to avoid judicial conflict of interest more pressing than when it may affect the very freedom of an individual imprisoned for life or the certainty due a murder victim’s family that the real murderer is no longer at large.

 At right: Dennis Dechaine listens to questions from a reporter during an interview at the Maine State Prison in Warren on March 22.

2010 Press Herald file

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Both are powerfully present in the case of Dennis Dechaine.

We are fast approaching the two-year mark since Dechaine filed his motion for a re-trial, based primarily but not exclusively on DNA test results unavailable at the original 1989 trial.

Remarkably, not even a hearing date has been set by Judge Carl Bradford, the original trial judge who, by statute, holds the authority to rule on the motion

It is not too late, therefore, for Bradford to recuse himself in the public’s interest of avoiding an apparent conflict of interest. I’m not questioning Bradford’s integrity; I’m confident he made all his trial decisions believing they were right in terms of due process and fairness.

Among these are his ruling against Dechaine’s pre-trial request for DNA testing (the results of which now strongly suggest his innocence), and his prohibiting testimony regarding alternative suspects, leading the jury to believe there were none (though now we know clearly there were).

But the public’s confidence in its judicial system requires there be not even the appearance of such a conflict. And yet, to rule on Dechaine’s motion, Bradford will have to choosebetween approving it, thus implicating himself in having obstructed due process, or rejecting it, even more damaging in its suggestion of his serving the personal interest of his judicial reputation.

The solution, of course, is to remove himself from this moral dilemma, with its appearance of a paralyzing conflict of interest.

Dechaine is serving a life sentence, so there is still time.

Bernie Huebner


In response to the letters to the editor July 27, I find it interesting that only one of the four respondents has firsthand knowledge of the Dennis Dechaine trial and appeals, Christine Beckwith-Hout. The others respond out of speculation and emotion.

Christine heard court testimony of Dechaine’s drug history that started in his early high school days. Evidently it continues today. This last overdose was not his first. Staff writer Trevor Maxwell should have had that information and included it in his article. He would have painted a much truer picture of Dechaine for his readers.

Christine speaks of Sarah Cherry’s family’s pain. She is right. But yet each year in July near the aniversary of Sarah’s murder, The Press Herald reruns all the old file information as if it is new information.

Maxwell quotes me and includes pictures, most of which came from old files. His focus when talking to me was “the strong faith of the family.”

I believe the indictment of Dechaine for drug trafficking is true based on his history. He wasn’t the only one indicted. He isn’t the victim here — nor has he ever been. His claim of attempted suicide is just another Dechaine spin.

How about a real story on his drug history from this paper? Let’s finally be honest.

Bob Dorr


There aren’t many mysteries here. Dennis Dechaine is in prison for the rest of his life, no parole. Prison life cannot be that great, so it’s not hard to accept that after 22 years he might have had a moment in which he wanted to give up.

I can also accept that in prison one can “get things” that should not be available, i.e. enough prescription drugs to commit suicide.

What I really want to know is, in these tight budgetary times and state belt-tightening, who in state government put “indict Dechaine on drug trafficking charges” at the top of his or her to-do list, and why?

I worked for the state last year. We all had to prioritize our work carefully. Don’t these guys have any real work to do? What is really going on here?

Steve Sandau


The letters July 18 concerning the Dennis Deschaine case by Emily Paine, Zach White and Genie Nakel (“Dechaine case, coverage disturbing”) have, in my opinion, hit the nail on the head.

Conscientious jurisdiction should be of primary concern. Does Maine continue to condone incarceration of a man whose innocence or guilt is debatable, not proved “beyond a reasonable doubt”?

Taking new evidence and past inefficiencies into account, could this state’s jurisprudence make the error of committing a possibly innocent man to life behind bars — especially considering the magnitude of the crime?

Is it, perhaps more convenient and empowering for our law enforcement, lawyers, judges et al. — however irritating and/or inconvenient it may be — to mitigate our residents’ fears by claiming, “We found the criminal. See? Problem solved. We’ve done a good job. Now you can safely go on with your normal daily patterns”?

I intend no slur on our police forces, litigators, judges and penal system. I appreciate the comfort they offer and admire many of them. However, people of any occupation can be fallible. Every human being should keep in mind the need for justice.

During this period of economic hardship, environmental disasters, green concerns and seemingly perpetual wars, it would be uplifting to know that at least one traumatic experience is handled with accurate, thorough examination, philanthropically: It’s the American Way.

Alice W. Ingraham


Is Dennis Dechaine a murderer or a scapegoat? After following this case for years, I’m still in doubt whether he’s guilty or not.

Let’s see if I have all this straight.

1. Dennis was found under the influence of drugs in the vicinity of Sarah Cherry’s body.

2. His truck was nearby.

3. Rope that was supposed to be the same as Sarah was tied with was found in the truck along with some of Dechaine’s papers that were on the ground.

4. Sarah was beaten and tied and strangled and bloody. But Dennis had no blood on his person or scratches anywhere, There was no evidence of Sarah being in his truck.

5. At Dennis’ trial, the prosecutor and the detective lied under oath (why weren’t they charged with perjury?).

6. They found DNA under Sarah’s fingernails that was not Dennis’.

Dennis is found guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. How many other murderers got 25 to life and were let out of prison early?

The judge has kept him from getting a new trial. Why? The investigators have burned all the evidence. Why?

I feel that Judge Carl Bradford should step down and let a new judge hear this case, as he has been too involved in this case where he has refused Dennis a new hearing.

If I’m correct, Judge Bradford has said Dennis must prove he had new evidence. What ever happened to a case being proven without a doubt — that a man was innocent until proven guilty?

Whatever happened to our Attorney General’s Office? Did it drop this case like a hot potatao?

Let’s give Dennis a new trial and stop this once and for all, without Judge Bradford sitting on the bench.

Richard C. Campbell

South Portland

OldGuy said…

Poor old Bob Dorr. This former member of the AG’s staff heard the bits of circumstantial evidence prosecutors fed the jury and can’t get his mind around the evidence they concealed, nor the facts (like false testimony by police) unearthed when our Legislature forced the attorney general to open his “confidential file” on the case, nor the scientific (DNA and time of death) evidence discovered in recent years. Now he’s whining that reporter Maxwell didn’t offer him a forum for his out-dated perceptions of this case. Well, as Lincoln once said, “I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”

August 7, 2010 at 4:34 AM

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