Trial and Error

The Outcry for Justice in the Dennis Dechaine Case

What does ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ mean?

Jun 7, 2011

How much proof is “proof beyond reasonable doubt”?

Wikipedia states, “Proof beyond reasonable doubt is the standard of evidence required to validate a criminal conviction in most adversarial legal systems (such as the United Kingdom and the United States). Generally the prosecution bears the burden of proof and is required to prove their version of events to this standard … to the extent that there could be no ‘reasonable doubt’ in the mind of a ‘reasonable person’ that the defendant is guilty.”

Is there reasonable doubt about the conviction of Dennis Dechaine? Let me count the ways:

Dechaine requested and offered to pay for DNA testing before the trial, but the court refused to allow it on grounds it would have delayed the trial. Yet both blood typing and later DNA test results from tissue under the victim’s thumbnail exclude Dechaine.

Time-of-death analysis by two nationally renowned forensic pathologists indicate that Dechaine was already under police control when the victim was killed.

Police investigators’ trial testimony claiming Dechaine confessed is contradicted by their own notes.

Far more plausible alternative suspects were ignored by police investigators at the time of the crime, and the existence of information about same denied to the jury by the prosecution.

Six weeks following Dechaine’s filing a motion for retrial, the state incinerated the rape kit and other biological evidence without notifying either the court or the defense.

Surrounding all this is the implacable campaign by the Attorney General’s Office to thwart any attempt to resolve these doubts. Meanwhile, Dechaine languishes in prison, the victim’s family is prevented from gaining real closure, and the public’s confidence in its justice system keeps eroding.

All this would — no doubt — end with a retrial, if only citizens would insist upon it.

Bernie Huebner

Waterville

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