Trial and Error

The Outcry for Justice in the Dennis Dechaine Case

April 2015 Newsletter

Apr 20, 2015


Maine Supreme Court to hear Denniss case in May; poll shows Mainers favor retrial by almost 2-1

We received word this week that the Maine Supreme Judicial Court (aka the Law Court) will hear oral arguments in Dennis’s case on May 14th. The proceeding will start at 10 a.m. at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland and will be the last chance for the case to be heard by a Maine court.

The trial in which Dennis was convicted was held in 1989 and has been followed by a series of denied attempts to gain a retrial. Should the current appeal also be denied in May, he and his legal team plan to file a federal appeal.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court is the highest court in the state, and it is known as the “Law Court” when presiding over the appeal of a conviction such as Dennis’s. It normally consists of seven justices. Currently, one seat is open, and it is likely that other justices will recuse themselves due to prior involvement with the case.

The appeal that the Law Court will be considering was filed in September 2014 in response to Judge Bradford’s decision in November, 2013 denying Dennis’s motion for a new trial. The text of Steve Peterson’s appeal brief is available on the Trial & Error website. Simply click on Legal Brief Cites Court’s Errors right below the picture of Dennis on the home page. Steve’s three stated arguments begin on page 13 of his brief, and he may choose to argue other points as well.

The entire hearing on May 14 will take less than an hour. Each side will be given twenty minutes to use as they see fit.  Responses to questions from the bench are included in the allotted time. Given that the news media may base their reporting on post-hearing interviews rather than on what actually occurs in the hearing, we encourage you to attend. Seating may be limited, so it’s good to arrive early. It’s also important that we sit quietly and show respect to those who might not be aligned with our cause.

Mainers want retrial

In September of 2014, a Portland market research company conducted its semi-annual Critical Insights on Maine Tracking Survey asking questions on a variety of topics of 606 registered Maine voters. Respondents included both landline and cell phone owners. Two questions about Dennis’s case and a possible retrial were included:

  • How familiar are you with the case of Dennis Dechaine, the Maine State Prison inmate who claims he is innocent of the 1988 Sarah Cherry murder?
  • Do you favor or oppose a new trial for Dennis Dechaine in which a jury could hear all the evidence, including the evidence developed since the original 1989 trial?

Good news: among those at least a little familiar with the case—371 out of the 606 individuals polled—respondents favor a new trial by almost a 2 – 1 margin.  Specifically, 57% favor a retrial, while 29% oppose one, with 14% undecided.  Compared to the 2005 David Emery poll results, those favoring a retrial have increased 3%, those opposing one have increased 4%, and those who don’t know have decreased by 7%.  Likely these small changes have all happened to those who were “don’t know’s” in Emery’s results, i.e., “don’t knows” in 2005 have had their thinking clarified in opposite ways in almost equal numbers.

If there is a conclusion to be drawn from these results, it may be that there is work yet to be done to inform the uninformed, work best done simply by writing rational, fact-based letters to the editors of Maine’s newspapers. Scientific evidence speaks loudly, but it needs to be repeated. Again and again.

Dennis sends his thanks


As always, Dennis is extremely grateful for all the support he has received during his 26 years of wrongful imprisonment. He once again sends his thanks and welcomes all cards and letters, though he is not always able to respond. Despite the ongoing challenges, which are often hard to imagine, he is doing very well right now and is prepared to carry his appeal for justice on to the federal court if need be.

For more information, or to donate time or money, please visit our website at Thank you!


Carol Waltman, Pres.

Bill Bunting, VP


Steve Sandau

Bernie Huebner

Genie Nakell

Nancy Farrin

Bob MacLaughlin

Don Dechaine

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