Trial and Error

The Outcry for Justice in the Dennis Dechaine Case

Trial Transcripts


Hearing on Motion to Continue (for DNA testing) 27 January 1989

Transcript of Trial

The entire 1,500 page transcript of the March, 1989, trial of Dennis Dechaine in Knox County Superior Court in Rockland Maine. The trial began on Monday, March 6 with jury selection.  The transcript’s
Volume 1 begins on Tuesday, March 7, and went to the Jury two weeks later on Friday the 17th. At noon on Saturday, after 10 hours of deliberation, the jury returned with guilty verdicts.

The transcript itself is exactly as it was produced by the court reporter. Hence there are passages which are confusing, sometimes because of the reporter’s mis-hearing what was said, or because of typos. There are also unfortunately several instances of missing and even one or two rumpled pages.

Volume 1
7 March 1989:  Chambers conference (1), Arthur Albin, maps, Dept. of Transportation (33), Scott Anderson, Uncle of Sarah Cherry (60), Robert West, resident, Lewis Hill Road (65), Sharon Gilley, West Gardiner Beef (81), Debra Crossman, mother of Sarah Cherry (90), John Henkel, father of baby being babysitted by Sarah Cherry (116), Rose Mary Knodt, works with John Henkel (159), Jennifer Henkel, mother of baby being babysitted by Sarah Cherry (165), Arthur Spaulding, resident, Dead River Road (193), Helen Buttrick, resident, Dead River Road, (200), Harry Buttrick, resident, Dead River Road, video deposition, (213), Leo Scopino, Deputy Sheriff, Sagadahoc Sheriff’s Dept. (213)

Volume 2
8 March 1989:  Chambers conference (246), Sidebar conference (258), Chambers conference (262), Daniel Reed, Sagadahoc Sheriff Dept., (265), Holly Johnson, Henkel neighbor (335), Mark Westrum, Detective, Sagadahoc Sheriff’s Dept. (354), David Haggett, Sheriff Sagadahoc County (392), James Clancy, Deputy Sheriff, Sagadahoc County (397), Thomas Bureau, Maine State Trooper (404), Stipulation of Dwayne Tobey, tow truck operator (428), Alfred Hendsbee, Detective, Maine State Police (429)

Volume 3
10 March 1989:  William Allen, Sergeant, Warden Service (481), Barry Woodward , Game Warden (506), James McGee, searcher from Naval Air Station (521), Joseph Roy Gallant, firearms State Police, (529), Ronald Roy, Medical Examiner (547), Ronald Richards, fingerprints (612)

Volume 4
13 March 1989:  John Otis, detective (643), Judith Brinkman, state chemist (702), Alfred Hendsbee, detective, recall (793), Mark Westrum, detective (826)

Volume 5
Chambers conference (845), Darryl Maxcy, Lincoln County Jail (850), Brenda Dermody, Lincoln County Jail, (869), Susan Norris (883), Justine Dennison, friend of Dennis Dechaine (895), Brian Dennison, friend of Dennis Dechaine (920), Chambers Conference (934), Gary Jaspar, resident, Lewis Hill Road (940), Lois Getchell, resident, Dead River Road (956), Kent Wommack, friend of Dennis Dechaine (965), Richard Bruno, boarder in home of Dennis and Nancy Dechaine (990), Joan Economeau, friend of Dennis Dechaine (1010), Eric Brandtmeyer, friend of Dennis Dechaine (1025), Ann Brandtmeyer, friend of Dennis Dechaine (1036)

Volume 6
Nancy Emmons Dechaine, wife of Dennis Dechaine (1043), Roger Ginn, psychologist (1134), Michael Hite, friend of Dennis Dechaine (1157), Elizabeth Hite, friend of Dennis Dechaine (1169), Dennis Dechaine (1175).

Volume 7
16 March 1989:  Dennis Dechaine, continued (1263), Raymond Knight, feed store operator (1382), Ronald Roy, Medical Examiner, recall (1387), Chambers conference (1391), Daniel Reed, detective, recall (1395),

Special Chambers Conference Transcript, 16 March 1989, (missing or incomplete section)
This transcribed chambers conference seems to have taken place at page 1373, Volume 7, of the regular trial transcript, during a lunch break in the testimony by Dennis Dechaine. He had just testified at the end of Prosecutor Wright’s questioning, “I did not murder Sarah Cherry.” Both transcripts were produced by Official Court Reporter, Philip Galucki. It’s not known why two transcripts with different numbering sequences were produced on that day. This transcript of the chambers conference was recently located among the copies already possessed by Trial and Error, hence the delayed posting to the Trial and Error website.

Volume 8
17 March 1989:  Chambers conference (1405), CLOSING ARGUMENTS.  State by Eric Wright (1407), Dennis Dechaine by Tom Connolly (1428), State Rebuttal by Eric Wright (1482, Jury Charge 1492.

Exhibits used at the trial
(as recorded by Carol Waltman, Trial and Error)

Appellant brief to Supreme Judicial Court
by Tom Connolly for Dennis Dechaine, before Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as Law Court, Law Docket No. KNO-89-126.

Appellee brief to Supreme Judicial Court
by James E. Tierney, Attorney General, and Eric E. Wright, Assistant Attorney General and Attorney for State at Trial and Wayne S. Moss, Tomas D. Warren, Assistant Attorneys General

Maine Supreme Judicial Court Decision on the Appeal
, March 1990.
The Supreme Court denied Dennis’ appeal, without dissent.

Motion for a New Trial, (missing or incomplete section)
4 May 1992
by Tom Connolly, with contents:
   I. Statement of the Case:  The evidence at trial (1), The offer of proof at trial (48), The Exclusion of the offer of Proof (70), The Appeal and What the Law Court Said was Missing (72)
   II. The New Evidence – the Missing Pieces:  Newly discovered Evidence As to the Alternative Suspect (73), from Ralph Jones (73), Pamela Babine (76), Kristin Comee (77), Thomas Connolly (77); Evidence of Alibi 1. Rebuttal Evidence at Trial (78), The New Affidavits (79).
   III. The Legal Standard for Granting Motion for New Trial.  A. Under the Maine Rule (80), Due Process Analysis (81)
   IV.  A New Trial Should be Granted In the Interest of Justice.  1. Materiality of the Alternative Suspect Proof. 
A. The Trial Context (84), B. Materiality of the Evidence (96), 2. The Evidence was Newly Discovered (92). 3. The Result is a Change in Verdict (98).  A. Rule 33 Analysis (98), B. Due Process Analysis (99).  Then Affidavits of Ralph Jones (A1), Pamela Babine (B1), Kristin Comee (C1), Barbara Dechaine, wife of Phil Dechaine, nancy Emmons, wife of Dennis Dechaine; Phil Dechaine and Thomas Connolly (D1).

Defendant’s Objection to the State’s Motion to Dismiss the Defendant’s Motion for a New Trial, 17 June 1992
by Tom Connolly

Hearing on Motion for a New Trial, July 1992

The motion was heard by Judge Carl Bradford, with Eric Wright representing the State of Maine, and Tom Connolly, Dennis Dechaine and George Carlton for Dennis Dechaine on the first day, only.

Volume 1
2 July 1992.  Chambers Conference (1-25), Argument (27-51), Margaret Steele (52), Mark Westrum (101), William Snedeker (131), Steven Drake (139), Kristin Comee (178).

Volume 2
8 July 1992.  Testimony by Ralph Jones (220), Pamela Babine (395),
Gerald Paradis (457)

Volume 3
9 July 1992.  Testimony by Edward Senecal (484), Patrick Senecal (508, one page),  Robert LaPierre (539), Alfred Hendsbee (579), Ronald Jacque (604), Steven Drake (629), Patrick Lehan (629), Thomas Austin (642) and Lucien Tardif Jr. (648)

Judge Carl Bradford’s 1992 Decision against the Motion for a New Trial
This 23 page decision is Judge Bradford’s only statement about the case, as it was the jury at the trial that found Dennis guilty. In this decision, Judge Bradford ruled against Dennis’ request for a new trial on the major ground that Douglas Senecal was the likely killer of Sarah Cherry.

Maine Supreme Judical Court Decision on Appeal of Denial of Motion for a New Trial, August 1993.
The Court denied Dennis’ appeal of the denied motion for a new trial, without a dissent.

Maine Supreme Court Decision Ordering the Return of Defense Exhibits, July, 1994
In this opinion, the Court affirmed the order by Judge Bradford that the thumbnail samples be returned by Tom Connolly to the State.  No mention is made of the DNA tests as the CBR Lab in Boston, nor its finding of another person’s DNA.

Superior Court Justice Donald Marden Denies Post Conviction Review Petition
Among other statements, Justice Marden wrote, “In the appeal of the Superior Court’s denial of a motion for new trial based upon new evidence, the Law Court concluded that other proffered new evidence was not credible and that testing the nail clippings would not be useful [emphasis added by webmaster] due to the clear sufficiency of the trial evidence supporting Petitioner’s conviction.”  January 9, 1999.

U.S. District Court Denies Writ of Habeas Corpus
U.S. District Court rules against releasing Dennis on a Writ of Habeas Corpus,(on the grounds that his U.S. rights were violated) and against obtaining a DNA sample from another possible suspect. [This was te ruling by David Cohen, Magistrate Judge.  Because Dennis was so dejected by yet another failure of the courts to do justice, he did not ask his attorney, Gene Libby to appeal the Magistrate’s recommended ruling.]
U.S. District Court, Portland, July 2000

“Declaration of Facts filed by Jim Moore to the U.S. District Court”
After the Magistrate’s initial recommendations, Jim Moore prepared this 19 page document about the case with the court.  Assistant Attorney General Bill Stokes objected and it was not considered by the District Court Judge for the case.  14 August 2000.

Motion for DNA testing and Retrial
Relying upon the 2001 Maine law providing for DNA testing (and prohibiting the destruction of biological evidence), Dennis’ lawyers, Michaela Murphy and Steve Peterson, filed a POST-JUDGMENT CONVICTION, MOTION FOR DNA ANALYSIS, AND FOR NEW TRIAL.
(20 May 2003)

(Regarding the thumbnail and blood samples from Sarah Cherry)

Only a few months into the case Michaela, showed her understanding of its entirety.  She itemized the items for DNA testing, and revealed that items of evidence had been incinerated by the Office of the Attorney General. She noted that the Office of the Attorney General had retained Dr. Deadman in 1997 and that he had confirmed that the 1994 DNA tests, which found the DNA of another person, were likely valid.  She reported a letter from Assistant Attorney General Bill Stokes which referenced “a female and male component” in the DNA found in 1994.  It presented the “Time of Death” problem, as detailed in “Human Sacrifice”.

He interviewed alternate suspect, Jason Fickett.  Also, he presented the evidence of what Al Hendsbee and others knew about Jason Fickett at the time of the 1988 trial. Fickett told Tom Cumler that no one from the State had ever questioned him about the murder of Sarah Cherry.

About her role with the blood and thumbnail samples.

Superior Court order for DNA Analysis 16 September 2004
In this Order, Judge Carl Bradford ordered that DNA testing be performed on the items of evidence as agreed by the State and Dennis’ attorney, Michaela Murphy, in a “Stipulation”.  The Stipulation also provided for the handling of the items and how the testing would be done by the State Police Crime lab together with the private lab, Cellmark. (16 September 2003)

Chapter 18 of the Private and Special Laws of the 121st Maine Legislature, 2003
An Act To Release the Records of the Attorney General and the Maine State Police Regarding the Investigation, Prosecution and Trial of Dennis Dechaine.
This is the law which opened up the files of the Attorney General to the public.

Two Motions and an Affidavit filed on Dennis’ behalf by Michaela Murphy with Judge Bradford. (filed on 21 July, 2004) (missing or incomplete section)

The first Motion, “MOTION FOR ORDER TO COMPEL DISCLOSURE OF STATE ACTORS IN CHAIN OF CUSTODY OF BIOLOGICAL EVIDENCE” aims at excluding the other possible sources of the DNA underneath Sarah Cherry’s thumbnail.

The second Motion, “MOTION  TO COMPEL DISCLOSURE OF DNA TESTING RESULTS AND ANALYSIS” aims at requiring the Attorney General’s office to tell Dennis’ lawyers whenever the State performs any DNA-related testing, such as comparing results against the CODIS database.

The Affidavit, “AFFIDAVIT OF PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR THOMAS CUMLER” gives details of his conversation with Doug Senecal in Hernando, Florida on February 8, 2004.   Tom stated, “(16) I asked Mr. Senecal if he was worried that his DNA would be found under the fingernails. (17) Mr. Senecal replied ‘Bingo, there you go.’ “

9 November 2005  Judge Bradford’s Order that the Withdrawal of the Motion for New Trial be without prejudice, despite the Attorney General’s request that Dennis not be permitted to again file a Motion
for New Trial under the DNA Testing statute:  (Adobe PDF file version).

17 May 2023 Pre-Hearing Memorandum Addressing Scope of the Evidence with three exhibits attached.

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