Webster’s dictionary defines hubris as “wanton insolence or arrogance resulting from excessive pride,” and defines complicity as “partnership in wrongdoing.”
The Dennis Dechaine case illustrates how the Maine Attorney General’s Office has demonstrated both for more than two decades. That office has seriously compromised its mission of “justice for all” and rendered its actions suspect, regardless of the attorneys serving in that office.
Starting with James Tierney in 1989, the year of Dechaine’s trial, to William J. Schneider, the current attorney general, the AG’s Office has been smug in its righteousness and self-granted infallibility.
“In Maine, we’re different,” asserted deputy AG William Stokes when I pointed out that in light of the frequent exonerations nationwide wouldn’t it be possible that Maine has a few innocent people in jail?
The Legislature has long smelled the stench of coverup in the Dechaine case emanating from the fourth floor of the Cross Office Building. When that office steadfastly refused to open up its files on the case, the lawmaking bodies enacted legislation to open them up. The greatest find in the files was the flagrant altering of the notes of the police investigators to incriminate Dechaine.
When the Legislature discovered that deputy AG Fern Larochelle had incinerated possibly exculpatory evidence, it passed legislation ordering the AG’s Office to keep all evidence in cases it prosecuted.
When I successfully sponsored a post-conviction DNA bill in 2006, that office was adamant in its opposition just as it was against a follow-up bill this year.
The only redeeming action was AG Andrew Ketterer’s 1990’s firing of prosecuting attorney Eric Wright in the Dechaine case.