Trial and Error

The Outcry for Justice in the Dennis Dechaine Case

Remembering Jim Moore, 1935-2022

From Adversary to Advocate

Carol Waltman remembers Jim Moore

Jims ATF special agent badgeTrial & Error founder Carol Waltman first encountered Jim Moore after she led a meeting in Southern Maine in 1989. The focus of the meeting was the assertion that Dennis Dechaine, Carol’s friend since childhood, had been wrongfully convicted for the murder of a young girl.

Jim had retired from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms as ATFs agent in charge for Maine and New Hampshire. His 25-year career had included two years with the Federal Organized Crime & Racketeering Strike Force and two years with Interpol where he directed international investigations of robbery rape, murder and terrorism. He thought highly of the Maine law-enforcement officials he had worked with, so when he read claims that they had convicted an innocent man, he decided to see for himself.

Jim sat through Trial & Errors presentation, then approached the group’s leader.

He came up and introduced himself,” Carol remembers, then called me a nitwit and said he was going to investigate the case himself at his own expense and prove me wrong. I kindly told him to go ahead and please let me know what he found.”

For his part, Jim thought the Dechaine supporters were a bunch of bird brains trying to trash law enforcement.” It wasn’t long, though, before the occasionally crusty but high-integrity investigator was asking to see Carols copious and meticulous files.

Jim’s exhaustive investigation also included interviews with law-enforcement officers, prosecutors, witnesses and scientific experts. Within several years, he was convinced an innocent man indeed had been “bulldozed into life imprisonment.” His 2002 book, Human Sacrifice: On the Alter of Injustice, laid out his case in detail, as did a short sequel, State Secrets: What the Jury Never Heard. A second edition of Human Sacrifice, which incorporated the contents of State Secrets, came out in 2006.

Jim donated all proceeds from these books to Trial & Errors effort to free Dennis.

I spent twenty years putting bad guys in prison,” he used to say, "and now Im trying to get one good guy out."

Jim Moore became close friends with both Carol Waltman and Dennis Dechaine. When he died on November 13, 2022, Carol wrote, Sadly, today I lost a special man in my life, and the one man who first believed in my belief of Denniss innocence. He is the only man I called Pere after my dad died.

Jim will forever be with us. I know he will help fight for justice behind Heavens Gate.”

This Story Is Not Over Yet

by Bill Bunting

Jims-PI-licenses.jpgIt is easy to forget that Jim Moore set out to prove Dennis Dechaine was guilty. It was the time-of-death science that raised doubts that led to his belief that, in fact, Dennis was innocent and had been wrongfully convicted. Jim's ability to change his mind when confronted by contradictory evidence is a quality that is all too rare. Converts often make the most effective of advocates, and for Dennis and Carol Waltman, Jim's conversion was like a gift from Heaven; for Maine's criminal justice establishment, Jim became the implacable foe from Hell.

As an investigator, Jim employed tools gained from his career as a federal agent, and was guided by his profound sense of right and wrong. Jim was particularly critical of incompetent, lazy, and dishonest law enforcement officials. Nor was he shy about criticizing certain members of the judiciary and the media. With skin thicker than Jumbo's, Jim seemed to take no notice of the brickbats hurled at him by infuriated critics and targets. As Jim said time and time again, "People will believe what they want to believe, but we have the evidence."

Human Sacrifice was the most influential book I ever read. When it came out, just twenty years ago, it led me to Jim and to Trial & Error. Jim and I spent much time in his speeding Jaguar -- I don't think I ever saw more than two fingers on the wheel --  as we traveled from Portland to Bangor to Brooklin to Madison to Gardiner to Rumford, and elsewhere, giving presentations about the case.

In our times together Jim talked about his career with the ATF, but never bragged about his exploits. Indeed, quite the opposite. He said that the job was mostly about talking with people, and that he was always polite when arresting mobsters, who often thanked him for his courtesy. But he never watched the Sopranos, suspecting that it romanticized criminals. When walking through a strange neighborhood where he would stand out from the residents he  carried a leash so that he could claim that he was looking for his dog. Twice the FBI tried to recruit Jim, but he declined because ATF agents, unlike FBI agents, were protected by Civil Service and could not be coerced by a superior to break or stretch the law.

Someone once told me that the ATF flew Jim about the country to interrogate mobsters. I don't know if this was true, but I can well believe that it was. Dennis says that experiencing Jim's interrogation was terrifying. When I asked Jim about this, he dismissed it, saying that he had barely gotten started on Dennis because he was already convinced that Dennis was innocent.

Jim was aware that he had a short fuse and was the first to admit that diplomacy was not his strength. One time when he and I were manning the Trial & Error booth at the Common Ground Fair a retired state trooper stood in front of our table repeatedly braying, "He confessed! He confessed! " while ignoring Jim's efforts to inform him of the facts. Jim almost launched himself over the table at the guy and afterwards, mollified, said that he would not be manning the booth again.

Jim never impressed me more than when he represented himself in Moore v. Abbott, a case he brought involving the nondisclosure of public records by a loosely formed commission established by the attorney general. After very competently, in my estimation, presenting his case before a clearly annoyed judge, a very relieved and almost jubilant Jim treated me to a celebratory meal -- with a stiff drink for himself -- at DeMillo's floating restaurant. He left a big tip for the waitress, who had to laugh at his lame jokes.  

This isn't the place to review Jim's case. (Google "Moore v. Abbott" and scroll down to the Maine Law Review article by Andrew Helman.) When the judge, who was clearly a member of the legal community's old boys club, ruled against Jim, even the lawyers from Mr. Abbott's law firm looked surprised, so weak had been their defense. Jim ultimately also lost his appeal in a split decision by the Law Court, a decision criticized by Maine newspapers. The important issues that Jim courageously raised in Moore v. Abbott will surface again, and ultimately Jim will be vindicated.

I have little doubt but that Jim, like many of us, expected that the shocking revelations revealed in Human Sacrifice would promptly free Dennis. But even Jim misjudged the depth and fervor of the intransigence of the State. Jim is now gone, and Dennis remains imprisoned because Judge Bradford and the State spared no effort to keep him there, no matter the questionable ethics of the tactics employed. Cowardly politicians, and editors acting as lapdogs rather than watchdogs, piled on, despite two statewide polls that showed that Mainers overwhelmingly favored a retrial for Dennis. Twenty years ago even those of us who questioned the verdict were careful not to be overheard in public speaking Dennis's name. Today, however, it is the State and the courts that are, at long last, feeling the heat. For this, and for a growing movement to reform Maine's criminal justice system, Jim deserves much credit. This story is not over yet.

This remembrance would not be complete without acknowledging the importance of Jim's wife Joanne, a mother of three successful men, a nurse by profession, and in strength of character fully the equal of Jim.  


Other Memories of Jim Moore

C_U-Jim-giving-presentation.jpg“I visited Dennis with Jim twice and once went to the Common Ground Fair with him. We wandered the lot for what seemed like hours looking for the car. He had a great sense of humor, incredibly intelligent, a wonderful man.”  - Heidi Pierce

“My absolute hope was to have him there when Dennis walked out of MSP as a free man. I will always be grateful for his book Human Sacrifice, his answering my countless questions regarding Denniscase, and visiting Dennis with me at the MSP.  He will be missed.” -  Nancy Farrin

“His book Human Sacrifice went a long way to paving the road for Dennis to travel on, even though his journey is not over. Thank you, Jim.” - Bernie Huebner

“I have vivid memories of his passionate presentations throughout the state and of his offering drinks from his Jaguar to walkers during the T&E march from MSP to Augusta.” -  Bob MacLaughlin

“Great to see these memories of Jim, but he was so much: ATF agent, private eye, fiction author (Official Secrets), historian, author of a history of the ATF, joke teller, Jaguar driver. And, yes, author of Human Sacrifice. I met him when he came to a writing class I was teaching. The first piece of writing he brought was a section of his novel where someone killed the police chief of Belfast. My father, Richard Lawless, had been Belfast's police chief, so I always kidded Jim that the first time we met he killed off my father! He kept coming to the writing workshop, bringing sections of Human Sacrifice. He wasn't having any luck getting it published, so I said let's just do it. And we did. I really thought that putting that book out would get Dennis out, and I have felt a deep sense of failure that it did not (yet). So, these last few days have been exciting, but now also very sad. No more (bad) jokes from Jim, but always an enjoyable, visible memory of him driving a Jaguar in heaven. - Gary Lawless

“Thanks to all who have reached out with kind thoughts and wishes. Jeffs letter [an opinion piece by Rep. Jeff Evangelos in the Portland Press-Herald criticizing the state for resisting exonerating evidence] was posted at 4 am. It was within minutes of my father passing away. Quite the coincidence. My father thought the world of this group. Keep up the fight. Looks like were not too far off now.” - Bill Moore


Jim's Obituary

Jim profile from funereal programBrunswick - James ("Jim") Peter Moore, 87 years, of Brunswick, Maine, passed away on November 13, 2022 from injuries sustained from an October accident.

Jim was born on February 13, 1935 to James and Sarah Moore in Philadelphia, PA. The Moores moved to northern Maine during Jim's childhood. After graduating from Fort Kent High School in 1953, he studied the German language and participated in ROTC at the University of Maine, Orono where he was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity.

Upon graduating in 1957, Jim served in the United States Army Signal Corps from 1957 to 1959, including a one-year deployment in the Republic of Korea.

Jim met the love of his life, JoAnne Hefferan, in 1959 while JoAnne was a nursing student at Temple University in Philadelphia. After JoAnne's graduation, the two were married at Immaculate Conception Church in Osceola Mills, PA on September 9, 1961, going on to have three children, James, Bill, and Jack. Jim demonstrated to all that family comes first and that his family meant more than anything to him. His guidance was invaluable. As a strong, kind, loving and supportive father, he was a true role model from whom his sons learned the importance of hard work and doing what is right.

Jim continued a Federal career of public service as a Special Agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Responsible for investigating crimes involving unlawful firearm possession, explosives and arson, his career included two years with the Federal Organized Crime & Racketeering Strike Force and two years with INTERPOL where he directed international investigations of robbery, rape, murder and terrorism. Jim was the Resident Agent in Charge of ATF offices in Maine and New Hampshire from the late 1970's through the 1980’s.

Jim became a published author during his retirement from law enforcement. Relying on knowledge of investigative procedures and ATF's history, his published works include numerous articles and two books, Very Special Agents and Official Secrets. After conducting an independent investigation at his own expense of a 1988 murder allegedly committed by Dennis Deschaine, two more of Jim's books, Human Sacrifice and State Secrets, were published about what many believe to be a wrongful conviction.

Jim was predeceased by his parents and leaves behind his beloved wife, JoAnne. He was loving father of James M. Moore, Esq. (Mary). William E. Moore (Sandy) and John P. Moore; loving grandfather of Brendan, Nicholas, Ryan, Sean, James and Michael Moore as well as step grandsons Jack, Bobby, Luke and Daniel Schurman.


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Human Sacrifice: On the Altar of Injustice

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