Trial and Error

The Outcry for Justice in the Dennis Dechaine Case

Trial & Error Newsletter – May, 2015

May 12, 2015

May 2015 Newsletter

Dear Supporters:

Just a reminder about the May 14th Maine Supreme Court hearing on the Dennis Dechaine case.

If you cannot make it to the hearing, here are two things to consider:

  1. You can also listen to the hearing using the live-streaming link at The recording will be available for up to two weeks after the hearing.
  1. Please take a few moments to consider sending a letter to the press with your concerns.
    For Kennebec Journal/ Morning Sentinel 300 word limit   
    For Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram  300 word limit   
    For Bangor Daily News 250 word limit
    For Sun Journal  250 word limit 
    For Brunswick Times Record  350 word limit     
    For Lincoln County News    

Here is a great example of a letter that was posted recently in the Portland Press Herald:

  Letter to the editor: Dechaine’s fate was caused by a fixation on conviction

I learned recently of an Alabama man named Anthony Ray Hinton who was exonerated of murder and released from prison after 30 years. Aside from obvious differences, there were comments on that case that reminded me of the Dennis Dechaine case in Maine.

One of Hinton’s lawyers, Bryan Stevenson, told The New York Times, “We’ve gotten into a culture where the pressure to convict and to achieve these outcomes is so great that owning up to mistakes is less frequent than you’d like to imagine.” That certainly was a factor in Dechaine’s conviction.

According to the article I read, “The case against (Hinton) had spurred another reckoning for Alabama and a legal system that critics said appeared troubled by obstinacy and arrogance.”

That sounds like the Maine Attorney General’s Office years ago saying, “In Maine, we’re different,” claiming we don’t convict innocent people. How do we know that?

Hinton himself said: “When the very people that you been taught to believe in – the police, the DA, these are the people that are supposed to stand for justice – and when you know that they lied to you, it’s hard for you to have trust in anybody.”

That sounds very similar to what Dennis Dechaine has said about his case.

Exonerations are much more commonplace these days with new scientific techniques becoming available. Statistically some of those should have occurred in Maine, but Maine is the only state without a felony exoneration. What is wrong with my state? Why can’t we realize that our judiciary might have made a mistake like so many others?

Isn’t it finally time for an impartial look at Dennis Dechaine’s case, with truth being the object instead of conviction?

I love Maine and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. That’s all the more reason that I want it to be a better place.

Steve Sandau


We’ve included our most recent newsletter below which we ask that you forward to all your contacts if you have not previously done so.

Sincere Thanks for your Support

Trial and Error


Maine Supreme Court to hear Dennis’s 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:

1) 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?

2) 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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