Among the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune Hamlet lists in his “To be or not to be” speech are “the law’s delay” and “the insolence of office.”

As his motion for a retrial enters its sixth year, Dennis Dechaine certainly knows about the former. The latter is amply demonstrated by the diametrically opposite interpretations of Maine’s post-conviction DNA statute — which requires evaluating “the DNA test results, when considered with all the other evidence in the case” — maintained by two different superior court judges.

Judge Carl Bradford, the trial judge still to rule on Dechaine’s retrial motion, interprets “all the other evidence in the case” to mean only evidence directly related to DNA — test results and methodologies. While Bradford has not admitted evidence relating to time-of-death, which indicates Dechaine’s innocence, to his credit he recently heard DNA evidence relating to an alternative suspect, Douglas Senecal, who for the first time was allowed to be named in court.

Judge Thomas Warren, in his March 14, 2012, ruling denying a similar retrial motion, argues the opposite: that it is “necessary” to evaluate the DNA evidence “in light of the entire body of evidence.” In this case this includes bloodstains, a sheet used to wrap the victim’s body, its burial location, the murder weapon, et al.

The courts can’t have it both ways. Neither can the attorney general’s office, which appears eager to use “any and all evidence” to support a conviction, but resists using it to establish a truth that might lead to exoneration.

Given the chance in 2011 to clarify their intent regarding these opposing interpretations, members of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee ruled unanimously against doing so.

And there’s the rub: Dechaine is still waiting in the 26th year of “the law’s delay.”

Bernie Huebner Waterville

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