Trial and Error

The Outcry for Justice in the Dennis Dechaine Case

Maine is not immune to miscarriages of justice

Oct 22, 2011

Portland Press Herald

There has been a lot of public outcry over the state of Georgia putting a man to death when there were many indications that he was, in fact, innocent.

That can’t happen here, right? Because we don’t have the death penalty, right?

But Dennis Dechaine is serving a life sentence for a crime that he didn’t commit.

Among other exculpatory evidence, such as time of death, false testimony by detectives and lack of any physical evidence that the victim was in Dechaine’s truck, there was male DNA under 12-year-old Sarah Cherry’s fingernails that does not match Dechaine’s (or that of anyone involved with the case).

While the state solved an even older murder case in Fayette last year using DNA under the victim’s fingernails, it continues to insist that it was just dirty fingernail clippers in the Dechaine case.

The state and the trial judge, Carl Bradford, turned down Dechaine’s request for DNA testing at his trial, saying it would take too long. (Dechaine even offered to pay for it.)

After he filed an appeal, the state destroyed potential DNA evidence, saying there wasn’t room to store it.

In 2006 the Legislature changed the DNA appeal law in Maine to make it more in line with that in other states.

Three years ago Dechaine filed a motion for a retrial under the revised statute, which included a request for further DNA testing. There can be no hearing on his motion until the testing is completed.

Obviously, if the state had also wished for this testing to be done, it would have been completed years ago. Could the state be more interested in protecting the process than seeking the truth?

Our deputy attorney general actually told two Maine legislators, “We don’t make mistakes in Maine.” Really?

Jennifer Bunting


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