May 26, 2015
Kennebec Journal / Morning Sentinel
Donald Macomber, the state’s attorney at the May 14 Law Court hearing on the appeal of Dennis Dechaine, told the justices Dechaine had confessed three times. His claim of three confessions does not stand up to scrutiny.
The first was allegedly related by Dechaine’s lawyer George Carlton to Fern LaRochelle of the attorney general’s office. In fact, Carlton did not tell LaRochelle that his client confessed; there was only Carlton’s assumption that Dechaine committed the crime. “When they can’t remember, it means they’re guilty,” Carlton told a Trial and Error investigator. Of course, Dechaine couldn’t remember what he hadn’t done.
Second, state Trooper Alfred Hendsbee’s notes fail to corroborate the suggestion in his trial testimony — craftily elicited by prosecutor Eric Wright — that Dechaine confessed. In fact, there is no mention at all of a confession in his notes, which seems strange, unless of course there was none.
Third, Sheriff’s Detective Mark Westrum’s notes were clearly altered to change Dechaine’s actual expression of frustration — “How could I kill her?”— into an apparent confession — “Why did I kill her?” The underlined “I” is the giveaway, because after being altered but retaining the emphasis, the alleged quote no longer even makes sense.
In 1994, prosecutor Wright told state Sen. Judy Paradis, of Frenchville, Rep. Douglas Ahearne and three others concerned about a wrongful conviction that the state had Dechaine confessing on videotape. No such confession exists because Dechaine never made one.
Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose (The more things change, the more they stay the same). Except now 57 percent of Mainers in last fall’s Critical Insights poll favor a retrial.