Trial and Error

The Outcry for Justice in the Dennis Dechaine Case

Dechaine’s fate was caused by fixation on conviction

Apr 19, 2015

Portland Press Herald


Letter to the editor: Dechaine’s fate was caused by a fixation on conviction

I learned recently of an Alabama man named Anthony Ray Hinton who was exonerated of murder and released from prison after 30 years. Aside from obvious differences, there were comments on that case that reminded me of the Dennis Dechaine case in Maine.

One of Hinton’s lawyers, Bryan Stevenson, told The New York Times, “We’ve gotten into a culture where the pressure to convict and to achieve these outcomes is so great that owning up to mistakes is less frequent than you’d like to imagine.” That certainly was a factor in Dechaine’s conviction.

According to the article I read, “The case against (Hinton) had spurred another reckoning for Alabama and a legal system that critics said appeared troubled by obstinacy and arrogance.”

That sounds like the Maine Attorney General’s Office years ago saying, “In Maine, we’re different,” claiming we don’t convict innocent people. How do we know that?

Hinton himself said: “When the very people that you been taught to believe in – the police, the DA, these are the people that are supposed to stand for justice – and when you know that they lied to you, it’s hard for you to have trust in anybody.”

That sounds very similar to what Dennis Dechaine has said about his case.

Exonerations are much more commonplace these days with new scientific techniques becoming available. Statistically some of those should have occurred in Maine, but Maine is the only state without a felony exoneration. What is wrong with my state? Why can’t we realize that our judiciary might have made a mistake like so many others?

Isn’t it finally time for an impartial look at Dennis Dechaine’s case, with truth being the object instead of conviction?

I love Maine and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. That’s all the more reason that I want it to be a better place.

Steve Sandau


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