Oct 7, 2015
FAIRGOERS OVERWHEMINGLY FAVOR RETRIAL
The 2015 Common Ground Country Fair in Unity, Maine again included a Trial & Error booth. In addition to offering information about Dennis’s case, this year’s booth featured a tally sheet so fairgoers could indicate if they were for or against a retrial. The idea was the brainchild of T&E board member Bernie Huebner.
While only a fraction of the 50,000 people who attended the three-day fair found their way to the Political-Action Tent, let alone to our booth, we were encouraged by the results. At the end of the weekend, the tally was 154 in favor of a retrial, and 4 against.
A more scientific sample of public opinion of Dennis’s case, also initiated by Bernie, was gathered last year by an independent polling company, Critical Insights of Portland. Of those questioned in the statewide survey, 57 % favored a retrial, 29 % were opposed, and 14% said they didn’t have enough information to form an opinion. (In a political election, 57% is considered a landslide.) If you split the undecideds down the middle, putting just half in the for column and half in the against column, you’d have 64% of Maine residents favoring retrial.
Of course, the Maine courts have continued to vote no, and it is still uncertain that the federal appeal will be heard. Meanwhile, Dennis continues to serve what for him is a day-by- day death penalty now in its 28th year.
It would be understandable if we concluded that our efforts have been in vain. However, without all the work that has been done, Dennis may have been long forgotten. Without the publication of Jim Moore’s Human Sacrifice and your many letters to the editor, and your many hours of volunteering and spreading the word and donating money, there might not be anyone favoring a retrial. Let’s keep going.
BACK TO THE FAIR
On Friday an elderly, slightly built, yet obviously fearless and feisty man from Lisbon stopped at the booth to pick up two bumper stickers to replace some that had faded. He said they were great conversation starters and told of one dramatic encounter with an enraged opponent. Then, without leaving his name, the man departed to carry on his one-man crusade for truth and justice in a town that is ground zero for deniers of Dennis’s claim of innocence.
Also on Friday, three residents from Bowdoin and Bowdoinham stopped by to let us know they supported Dennis. The mother of a woman who had dated him when he first worked for George Christopher wanted Dennis to know that “the people of Bowdoinham and Richmond supported him and were thinking of him.” She then began to tear up and quickly left.
On Sunday morning, a large, burly man who was also an old friend of Dennis, was suddenly overcome by tears himself. So was a woman whose best friend had “worked with Dennis on a farm,” and who had often told her that “just to know Dennis was to know that it was impossible for him to hurt anyone.”
Two retired Maine State Prison guards from the Thomaston era came by the booth to reiterate their support for Dennis. One said he was very friendly with someone “high up in the sheriff’s organization” who believed that the state’s case against Dennis was “totally bogus” and could not understand how this travesty had been allowed to continue. A number of people stated their belief that Dennis’s case proved the criminal justice system was corrupt, and some speculated that there must be some fact we do not know that explains “the cover-up.“ Others simply shook their heads in frustration.
AND SOME OPPONENTS
The first person to red-check the NO column on the tally sheet was a man who quickly admitted he didn’t really know much about the case, and he did accept the offer of informational handouts. Later, a man who identified himself as a prosecutor claimed he knew all the facts of the case and that Dennis was “guilty as hell.” He strode off, refusing to take any information.
A woman who left a red check on Friday said she just “felt that Dechaine was guilty” and was not interested in the scientific evidence, or in the handouts. On Saturday, a woman making a red check said she discounted all of the scientific evidence in the case. A double-checker, perhaps?
On Saturday, a man who identified himself as an assistant attorney general in the civil division said he really did not know much about the case. However, as a friend of the former deputy attorney general in charge of the criminal division (now a superior court judge), the man said he “believed what he was told.” Further, he discounted the results of the Critical Insights poll, as well as the opinion of his own mother, who believes Dennis was wrongfully convicted.
ON WE GO
Thanks to Bill Bunting, Bernie Huebner, Betty Chase, and Nancy and Paul Farrin for all their work in setting up, taking down and staffing the booth. The $200 they took in from book sales and contributions will go to continuing the effort to secure a retrial for Dennis Dechaine so that a jury can hear ALL of the evidence. If you’d like to add to it, please visit the Trial & Error website where you can donate via PayPal. Or, you can send a check directly to Carol Waltman, Trial & Error, P.O. Box 153, Madawaska ME 04756. Please make it payable to Trial & Error.
Also, please consider writing more letters to the editors of your local and statewide newspapers. They make a surprisingly big difference!
Carol Waltman, Pres.
Bill Bunting, VP
Directors: Steve Sandau