Dec 12, 2010
There’s a smell around Maine’s judicial system, and it’s hung in the air around here for quite some time.
It’s the stink of injustice and its lingering, rancid odor that corrupts the independent minds of those who are so easily swayed to believe that their jobs are more important than the life of someone who is begging to prove his innocence. And you have to beg in front of the same judge who convicted you in the first place. What chance do you have? But that’s Maine law.
Dennis Dechaine has been in prison now for 22 years. He would like a retrial where all the evidence that the first jury never heard will finally be. Some being DNA evidence which in many other states, would have already exonerated him. Why are we in denial? Do we want to have a system that turns a blind eye to truth and scientific data?
Some say, “There are no innocent men or women in Maine jails.” Will Dechaine be our first? Certainly more could follow.
We do not have the perfect system; other states have already admitted this. In Pennsylvania, where nine men have been proven innocent by DNA testing in recent years, the state Senate created an Innocence Commission in 2006. California, Connecticut and Wisconsin also have created commissions to study the causes of wrongful conviction. In 2003, the Illinois Legislature passed into law 85 recommendations by a special commission that studied capital punishment and created safeguards against all wrongful convictions.
People who haven’t seen the movie “Conviction,” should see it. This story happened in Massachusetts, a place where “things of this sort never happen,” either.