Trial and Error

The Outcry for Justice in the Dennis Dechaine Case

A commentary by Douglas Christensen : Channel X Radio

Aug 29, 2010

A commentary by Douglas  Christensen, Presisdent  Channel X Radio.

August 28-29 2010  

From Pokey Point Pond, I’m Douglas Christensen with my comment on things and stuff.  For years, nay, for decades, the Maine Attorney General’s office has engaged in stone-walling and a cover-up of its handling of the Dennis Dechaine case.  For those who have been living under a rock these past 22-years, Dechaine was arrested, tried and convicted of the murder of a 12-year-old downstate girl named Sarah Cherry. She lived in Bowdoin, Dennis lived in the adjoining town of Bowdoinham. He was a college-educated young man, a married farmer of 30, who had graduated from his hometown high school in Madawaska more than a decade before.

In the past, we have reviewed the evidence, or the lack of it, that convicted Dechaine. What we have not done very well is tell you about the acts—seemingly criminal acts—of the Attorney General’s staff, the negligence of the investigators, and the misguided rulings of the court.

After looking at this case, reading the reports, the trial transcripts, and the result of James Moore’s years of research and interviewing folks, I can say without fear of contradiction that the state—our state—and its witnesses, obstructed justice, destroyed evidence, concealed evidence, committed perjury, and failed to share some of pivotal information it had in its possession with the defense, as required..

And the police officers down there were equally disingenuous.

One glaring example—and there are dozens—is that in court, during the March 1989 trial, two state witnesses, cops, were asked to read from their notes.  To put it kindly, they didn’t read. They adlibbed. The testimony of then-detective Mark Westrum was, he said telling the jury of his interview with Dechaine while testifying about Dennis’ alleged confession: “Why did I kill her?”  he quoted the accused. The notes, when they were finally exposed to the light of day years and years later, by order of the legislature, didn’t say that.  Before they were, they were tampered with—that line read: “How could I have killed her?” — not “Why did I kill her?”  Just afterDechaine’s lawyer filed a motion of a new trail in 1992, the state Attorney General’s office incinerated evidence— hair and fiber found on Sarah’s body, and the rape kit—none of which had ever been DNA tested. The tests that were conducted revealed that neither the hair nor the finding in the rape kit implicated Dechaine at all, but today might well have identified some other suspect.  As for burning that evidence, the state said it needed to make room.  But it continued to find room for the evidence the A-G found supportive of its position.

In a classic rush to judgment, Justice Carl Bradford had denied Dennis’s request to have the articles of evidence tested using DNA.  He said it would delay the trial too long, even though the request was made in January 1989, the trial not scheduled to begin until March.

Since then, DNA evidence—found and tested repeatedly—found under Sarah’s thumbnail was determined to be that of a yet unidentified male, but the tests excluded Dechaine.  But, even without DNA tests, there were two facts the state knew back then.  That blood found was type A.

Dennis is type O.

Among evidence concealed was that the tracking dog of Maine State Trooper Thomas Bureau was never able to trace Sarah Cherry to or from Dennis’s truck, which was found near where her body was discovered, that mere proximity being one of the lynchpins of the State’s case.

And as we have reported time and again, the state, after microscopically examining that truck, was never able to find a shred of evidence that Sarah Cherry had ever been in it, the only way Dechaine could have transported her, in broad daylight, the three plus miles from the home where the young girl was babysitting to the place where her battered and bloody body was located.

In an effort to stop Dechaine supporters dead in their tracks, Assistant Attorney General Eric Wright, the prosecutor of the case, told Dennis’s backers that the state had a full video-taped confession from Dechaine, one made to the psychologists who examined Dennis and found him sane, normal, and intelligent.

Wright made the statement about that confession on September 1, 1994, to Trial and Error Founder Carol Waltman, State Senator Judy Paradis, State Representative Douglas Aheane, and Dennis’s brothers. Viewing that tape, after it had been locked away for 15 years, former federal investigator-turned-author James Moore says, “Nothing on that video remotely resembles a confession.”

We think it is long past time for a federal investigation into the conduct, practices, actions, statements, and alleged illegal activities of those lawyers working, past and present, for the Attorney General:  Eric Wright, Ferdinand LaRochelle, and William Stokes.

Dennis Dechaine has been in prison for 22 years, and there is more evidence today that says he did not commit this heinous crime than the circumstantial evidence that pointed to his possible guilt. In fact, one piece of evidence shows it impossible for Dennis to have killed Sarah. At the time Sarah actually died, the result of strangulation, Dechaine had been in police custody—for hours.

We think the Attorney General should, at long last, stop the stonewalling, the games of hide and go seek, and the use of words to hide the facts instead of reveal them. We think the Attorney General should join with the defense next month and ask the court for a new trial, one where the jury can hear all the evidence and be exposed to all the facts.  And we think it would be a good idea if you wrote to Janet Mills, the AG, and told her that.  Her e-mail address is . If you prefer snail mail, you can write her at 6 State House Station, Augusta 04333.  But don’t expect a reply.

As James Moore says in the introduction of his book Human Sacrifice, “This is the story of an innocent man bulldozed into life imprisonment and kept there by a legal community that doesn’t give a damn.”

From Pokey Point Pond, that’s kinda the way I see things this weekend.  I’m Douglas Christensen on the Channel X Radio Network.

Commentary by Doug Christensen on the Channel X radio stations, WCXU, WCXX, WCXV, 1W276AY in Aroostook County, ME.

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