AUGUSTA – A three-member investigatory panel has found no misconduct by police or prosecutors in Dennis Dechaine’s trial for the 1988 murder of a 12-year-old babysitter, Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe said Monday.

Rowe asked Retired U.S. Magistrate Judge Eugene Beaulieu and attorneys Charles Abbott and Marvin Glazier in October 2004 to conduct the independent probe in response to allegations by a group that’s seeking a new trial for Dechaine, who was convicted of murdering Sarah Cherry and is serving a life sentence.

Cherry was abducted from a house in Bowdoin where she was babysitting in July 1988 before her body was found in woods in the southern Maine town.

Critics of the investigation leading to Dechaine’s arrest and conviction alleged that police altered notes to attribute incriminating statements to Dechaine and that prosecutors misled the Superior Court jury about Cherry’s time of death and failed to share the name of an alternative suspect with defense lawyers. They also alleged that physical evidence was destroyed and the court was not notified about the reliability of independent DNA tests conducted in 1993.

Beaulieu, Abbott and Glazier dismissed each of the allegations after interviewing police and prosecutors and reviewing pertinent portions of the transcript of Dechaine’s trial, police and autopsy reports, state supreme court decisions and other affidavits and documents.

“(W)e find that none of the allegations set forth to us … have any substantive merit,” the investigators said.

Their letter to Rowe notes that they were not asked to express any opinion as to Dechaine’s innocence or guilt, and do not intend for their report to do so.

It also explains that the investigators waited to release their report until all of Dechaine’s court proceedings were resolved and matters in the Legislature pertaining to his case were finalized.

In 2005, Dechaine’s lawyers withdrew his motion for a new trial, saying the state law that allows for a post-conviction review of DNA evidence sets an unfair burden on defendants. Lawmakers earlier this year addressed that issue and passed a bill that makes it easier for criminals to seek new trials based on DNA evidence.

Dechaine’s attorney, Michaela Murphy, said the report is less than complete because the investigators didn’t talk to any of several lawyers who have represented Dechaine.

“I think it’s pretty basic to our system of justice that you talk to both sides before an opinion is formed,” said Murphy. She also questioned how much will be gained by releasing the report.

“I think this is a case that needs to be resolved in a courtroom and not in press releases from either side,” Murphy said.

In releasing the report, Rowe said, “I am satisfied and I hope that reasonable Maine people will be satisfied that Dechaine’s conviction was not the result of police or prosecutorial misconduct.”



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