Trial and Error

The Outcry for Justice in the Dennis Dechaine Case

News Articles - Trial and Error - Dennis Dechaine

Can a trace of DNA change this man’s fate?

portland press herald 3030437 001Jul 11, 2011

In prisoner Dennis Dechaine’s latest bid for a new trial, the key piece of evidence is actually old news.

Accompanied by his attorney Steve Peterson, Dennis Dechaine listens to a reporter’s questions during an interview at the Maine State Prison in Warren on March 22. With a new appeal more than two decades after his conviction in the death of Sarah Cherry, no other case has been litigated in Maine’s court system for so long.

March 2010 photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Maine Voices: The state can resolve the Sarah Cherry murder case once and for all

May 18, 2011

The only fair answer to all of the questions about this crime is a new trial for Dennis Dechaine.


BRUNSWICK — This controversy over the Sarah Cherry murder has gone on for 22 years. Enough is enough!


James P. Moore of Brunswick is a retired federal agent and the author of “Human Sacrifice,” a book that argues Dennis Dechaine is innocent.

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Legislative Panel Rejects Dechaine DNA Bill

May 13, 2011

The bill would have allowed the consideration of DNA evidence not available at the time of convicted murderer Dennis Dechaine’s trial nearly 23 years ago.

Members of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee have unanimously rejected a bill that could have given convicted murderer Dennis Dechaine a chance for a new trial.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. John Martin of Eagle Lake, would have allowed the consideration of DNA evidence not available at the time of Dechaine’s original trial nearly 23 years ago.

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Proposed Bill Could Grant Convicted Murderor New Trial

May 10, 2011

by Laura Roberts

Augusta – The statehouse hosted a public hearing on Tuesday on a bill that could grant a new trial to convicted murderor Dennis Dechaine.

The bill would amend current laws regarding post-judgment DNA analysis.

Dechaine was convicted back in 1989 of murdering 12-year old Sarah Cherry. Since then he has been claiming they got the wrong man.

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Playing Trial & Error by the Bonfire

Mar 30, 2011

Pilgrim’s progress By SAM PFEIFLE | March 30, 2011 

Jesse Pilgrim and the Bonfire do a couple things pretty well on their debut record, Trial & Error, that are hard to do well: create an album with a sense of place, and create an album with something to say. Combining those attributes makes for a pretty sharp piece of cowpunk and old-time folk that evokes the long musical tradition that manages to link Woody Guthrie to Joe Strummer and Shane MacGowan.

Pilgrim likes Portland pretty well — except when he doesn’t. Coming just a bit more than half-way through this 11-song, half-hour full-length, “Love/Hate” is in many ways its heart. The distorted and fuzzed out guitar paired with the quick country strum (Pilgrim and Andy Barbo) and walk in the bass (Mica Jones) is pretty indicative of the cow-punk feel record, somewhat akin at times to No Depression, other times more of a mix between Johnny Cash and Soltero’s Tim Howard.

Read more: Playing Trial...

Bill would give Dechaine a shot at new murder trial

Mar 21, 2011

A Maine lawmaker is proposing a bill that could give Dennis Dechaine a chance for a new trial in his bid to overturn his murder conviction nearly 22 years ago.

Rep. John Martin of Eagle Lake says the bill crafted on Dechaine’s behalf would require the state to consider DNA evidence collected after Dechaine was convicted of the 1988 murder of 12-year-old Sarah Cherry in Bowdoin. Dechaine, who is serving a life sentence, hasn’t wavered in maintaining his innocence.

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Attorney general should reopen Dechaine case

Jan 17, 2011

In Colorado’s JonBenet Ramsey murder case, unidentified DNA on her pants eliminated her parents as suspects.

In Maine’s Sarah Cherry case, however, the girl’s pants, along with other evidence, were incinerated by the state after Dennis Dechaine filed an appeal, and the state refuses to act on the possibility that the unidentified male DNA found under Cherry’s thumbnail belongs to the killer.

The testimony of detectives regarding alleged admissions by Dechaine is contradicted by their notes, and two world-renowned forensic pathologists have concluded — as have other experts — that Dechaine could not be the killer.

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DNA clears Texas man who spent 30 years in prison

Jan 3, 2011

By JEFF CARLTON, Associated Press Jeff Carlton, Associated Press

DALLAS – Prosecutors declared a Texas man innocent Monday of a rape and robbery that put him in prison for 30 years, more than any other DNA exoneree in Texas.

DNA test results that came back barely a week after Cornelius Dupree Jr. was paroled in July excluded him as the person who attacked a Dallas woman in 1979, prosecutors said Monday. Dupree was just 20 when he was sentenced to 75 years in prison in 1980.

Now 51, he has spent more time wrongly imprisoned than any DNA exoneree in Texas, which has freed 41 wrongly convicted inmates through DNA since 2001 — more than any other state.

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Here are 25 stories that really clicked with readers

Jan 2, 2011

# 25. Did this man kill Sarah Cherry?

Convicted murderer Dennis Dechaine pins his hopes for one final shot at a retrial on new DNA evidence from Sarah Cherry’s body. Courts reporter Trevor Maxwell examined the case and both sides’ arguments in this July investigation published in the Maine Sunday Telegram, which was viewed more than 15,000 times.

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Dechaine Defense Restricted By Judge’s Order

Nov 23, 2010

By Lucy L. Martin

The attorney representing Dennis Dechaine, convicted in the 1988 murder of Sarah Cherry, said this week he was “hugely disappointed and not at all surprised” by a recent setback in Dechaine’s steps toward a new trial.

The upcoming hearing on that bid, most likely to take place early next year, will be limited to DNA evidence only, Judge Carl Bradford decided.

An order filed in Knox County Superior Court by Bradford, who presided over the original trial, denies defense attorney Steven C. Peterson’s motion to allow testimony from forensic pathologists Cyril Wecht, M.D., J.D., and Walter Hofman, M.D. Earlier this year, both experts concluded that the 12-year-old Bowdoin babysitter died after Dechaine was in custody that July night in 1988, when the heinous crime was committed.

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Exclusion of opinions a blow to Dechaine

portland press herald 3053967

Nov 18, 2010

Only DNA evidence will be admitted at a hearing to determine if the convicted murderer gets a new trial.

By Trevor Maxwell 
Staff Writer

In a major blow to Dennis Dechaine’s bid for a new trial, the judge in the case will not consider new forensic opinions offered by the defense that suggest Dechaine could not have murdered 12-year-old Sarah Cherry in July 1988.

Dechaine’s lawyer, Steve Peterson, obtained the opinions earlier this year from two forensic pathologists, Cyril Wecht and Walter Hofman, regarding Cherry’s time of death. Peterson hoped to persuade Justice Carl O. Bradford to consider those reports, along with DNA evidence, at an upcoming hearing to determine whether Dechaine will get a new trial.

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Hearing delayed on Dechaine’s bid for new trial

Oct 21, 2010

Talks between the state and defense on DNA testing mean the motion likely won’t be heard until next year.

A hearing, tentatively scheduled for this fall, to determine whether Dennis Dechaine will get a new trial has been pushed back until at least December, and is more likely to be held next year.

Dechaine, 52, is serving a life sentence for the kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Sarah Cherry in 1988 in the Sagadahoc County town of Bowdoin.

Through four unsuccessful appeals at the state and federal levels, Dechaine has maintained that he is innocent. A large group of vocal supporters continues to lobby state officials and legislators on his behalf.

Dechaine’s latest motion for a new trial was filed in August 2008, but the sides have been bogged down for much of the past year in discussions about how to do additional DNA testing on some of the evidence, which is now more than 20 years old.

“There have been some delays, but now we’re seeing progress,” said Steve Peterson of Rockport, Dechaine’s lead attorney.

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By Trevor Maxwell 
Staff Writer

LePage on death penalty, Dechaine

Sep 20, 2010

GOP gubernatorial hopeful Paul LePage this week made some interesting comments about capital punishment and convicted murderer Dennis Dechaine.

LePage, answering questions about the state’s judicial system, said, “On the record, and I’ll be very candid, I do think Maine should have the death penalty.”

Maine abolished the death penalty in 1887, becoming one of the first states to do so.

LePage wasn’t asked about his stance on capital punishment. His view was unsolicited, as were his statements about Dechaine, who is currently serving a life sentence for killing 12-year-old Sarah Cherry in 1988.

LePage was addressing transparency within the state judicial system when he brought up Dechaine.

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Human Sacrifice: On the Altar of Injustice

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