Sep 17, 2011
Bangor Daily News 9-17-11
Three years have now passed since Dennis Dechaine filed his motion for a retrial in order to present several forms of significant scientific evidence — DNA, time of death, et al. — of his innocence of the 1988 murder of Sarah Cherry.
It may help in understanding how long this has been to remember that Merriwether Lewis and William Clark took three years to explore vast areas of the continental interior in the 19th century.
Three years is almost how long it took the United States to fight World War II.
Attorneys and judges cannot have forgotten the three years it took to complete their entire law school education.
Whatever one’s frame of reference, the only one that matters to Dechaine is that three years is more than 1,000 days and nights spent in prison waiting for the wheels of justice to turn. That they are barely moving is especially ironic, considering that the reason the original trial judge, Carl O. Bradford, refused Dechaine’s 1989 pre-trial motion to conduct DNA testing was that it would delay the trial by several months.
Given the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a speedy public trial, one has to wonder just what this delay in granting or denying a retrial motion is really about.
Anyone who has followed the developments in the case over the years might reasonably conclude that delay is simply the only tactic the state has left after virtually all of its evidence has been discredited.
Not only hope but the public’s confidence in its justice system would seem to depend upon the state finally accepting that it is long past time for a jury to hear all of the evidence in this case, and to honor the spirit, not just the technicalities, of due process.