Mar 3, 2011
St.John Valley Times
Every day that Dennis Dechaine spends in jail, the worse Maine looks, resurrecting the image that the state is behind the times in stubbornly maintaining that it cannot make any mistakes, a position that is ironically held by the very agency that is supposed to keep up with the times-our won Attorney General’s Office.
When I was in the House of Representatives, I met with then Attorney General Steve Rowe and Assistant AG Bill Stokes over the inconsistencies of the Attorney General’s Office in the Dechaine case.
When I mentioned that in light of the frequent exonerations around the country Maine could also have a few inmates who are innocent, Stokes immediately retorted, “In Maine, we are different!” I couldn’t believe what I heard. Even Rowe winced, not that he ever did anything constructive to allay the growing public conviction that Dechaine did not receive a fair trial and that he might indeed be innocent given the results of DNA tests.
Stokes, the state’s chief prosecutor, has been particularly ambivalent in regards to DNA. While he dismisses the results of two DNA tests related to the 1986 murder of Sarah Cherry, he has used DNA to help convict felons.
What Stokes doesn’t get – but most states do-is that DNA cuts both ways; bit I can also prove the innocence of a defendant or convict – WITHOUT A DOUBT.