As I write this letter, the clock keeps ticking against Dennis Dechaine — 9,104 days or 24-plus years — for a crime that DNA taken from the victim’s thumbnail and other data, including time of death evidence, show he did not commit. The list of organizations and individuals advocating a new trial for the Madawaska native and former Bowdoinham businessman is impressive: the Innocence Project, Court TV, famed lawyer F. Lee Bailey, former Maine Attorney General Jon Lund, former ATF agent and author James Moore, a great majority of present and past legislators, an increasing plurality of polled Maine citizens and even some prison guards and other Department of Corrections personnel. Conspicuously absent from the list is the Maine attorney general’s office. In fact, our own top law enforcement agency has opposed most of the legislation that might help bring justice to the Dechaine case. It testified against my post conviction DNA bill, which makes a new trial possible for any inmate who can provide new DNA evidence that could have led the jury to reach a different verdict. Fortunately, the Legislature passed the bill, and the governor signed it into law.
Not only was Dechaine in the wrong place at the wrong time, he has been in the wrong state for over 24 years. In many states, including Texas, where enlightened, justice-oriented AGs serve, he would be a free man by outright release led by the attorney general.Twenty-four years ago, Dechaine was betrayed by an overzealous prosecuting attorney and by a court that refused to allow DNA testing. Hopefully, this dark chapter in the annals of Maine’s judiciary will forever be expunged in the near future.
Former state representative