May 9, 2014
Kennebec Journal / Morning Sentinel www.centralmaine.com
According to the Innocence Project, a national organization committed to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing, and reforming the criminal justice system, one of the main causes for wrongful convictions is governmental misconduct.
“Some wrongful convictions are caused by honest mistakes,” according to its website. “But in far too many cases, the very people who are responsible for ensuring truth and justice — law enforcement officials and prosecutors — lose sight of these obligations and instead focus solely on securing convictions. The cases of wrongful convictions uncovered by DNA testing are filled with evidence of negligence, fraud or misconduct by prosecutors or police departments.”
Dennis Dechaine is suffering the consequences of misconduct by Maine’s judicial system and law enforcement. In 1989, Judge Carl Bradford sentenced Dechaine to life in prison without parole.
I believe the misconduct in this case includes prosecutors concealing or obscuring evidence during the trial; law enforcement changing/embellishing notes; two detectives’ testimony not matching their original notes; Bradford’s denial of Dechaine’s pre-trial request for DNA testing; the destruction of items of evidence likely bearing DNA shortly after an appeal had been filed; law enforcement focusing solely on Dechaine and never following up on alternate suspects.
Bradford’s recent ruling (article, “Maine convicted murderer Dennis Dechaine loses bid for new trial,” April 10) denying Dechaine a new trial based on the DNA evidence proves to me that the judge has lost sight of his obligation to seek the truth. Instead, Bradford continues to focus solely on protecting the original trial verdict, which I believe was a flawed verdict made by jurors who did not get to hear all the evidence.
Perhaps Bradford does not fully understand the powerful significance of DNA evidence. Or worse still, perhaps he does.