May 22, 2015
For almost 26 years, our state has repeatedly denied Dennis Dechaine’s request to present evidence the jury never got to hear. After the Maine Supreme Court finishes deliberating his May 14 appeal of a Superior Court decision to deny a retrial, it may well happen again.
But shouldn’t two simple facts have warranted reopening the case years ago?
First, even though the defendant offered to cover expenses, the judge denied his request to have his DNA tested and compared to crime-scene DNA before the trial in 1989. Prosecutors claimed such testing would delay the trial, and that it was unreliable. This, even though they had already taken DNA samples in a prior case that were later used to find and convict the perpetrator.
Second, within weeks of Dechaine’s lawyers filing an appeal in 1992, the Attorney General’s Office ordered incineration of DNA evidence that probably would have proven innocence or guilt. Routine housekeeping, they said.
Shouldn’t that be enough right there? That the state destroyed DNA evidence? Never mind that fingerprints from the abduction site and a hair from the victim’s body also went missing. And never mind that the one DNA sample the “housekeepers” overlooked showed Dechaine was not the guy.
It’s simple. Officials of our Maine judicial system refused to let a defendant present evidence crucial to his case. Then they set fire to it when he tried again. It’s time to give Dennis Dechaine a fair shake.