PORTLAND — Further testing on items from the Sarah Cherry murder case could shed light on whether DNA on one of the girl’s fingernails was the result of contamination, a defense witness testified today during a hearing for Dennis Dechaine’s bid for a new trial.

Dechaine, 54, is serving a life sentence for the 1988 kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Sarah Cherry in Bowdoin. He is seeking a new trial based on a partial DNA profile from an unknown male that was extracted from a clipping of Sarah Cherry’s left thumbnail.

Dechaine, the girl’s family members, law enforcement officer on the case and medical examiner’s office staff are among those who have been ruled out as the donor.

Dechaine’s lawyer is trying to convince a judge that the jury in Dechaine’s 1989 trial would not have convicted him if they had been presented with the DNA evidence. The state is arguing that the DNA likely got on the nail because of contaminated clippers used during the autopsy.

Rick Staub, forensics laboratory director of a Texas lab that handled some of the testing, said it’s hard to imagine DNA transfer through nail clippers unless they had wet blood on them and were used immediately afterward. Staub said that if the clippers were a contamination source, he would expect that other male DNA would have been picked up by the type of testing that was performed.

Staub’s lab, previously called Orchid Cellmark and now named Cellmark Forensics, did DNA testing on swabs from other items from the case, including sticks used to assault the girl, the rope that bound her and a scarf that was over her mouth. No male DNA was detected on those items through the testing method used.

But Staub said better results could be possible if an entire piece of fabric was scraped rather than just swabbed. If that sort of testing yielded DNA matching that on the fingernail, it would be unlikely that the fingernail DNA resulted from contaminated clippers, he said.

Both sides in the case have agreed to have such testing performed. It wasn’t clear when that would take place and when the results would be available.

The hearing continues tomorrow before Superior Court Justice Carl O. Bradford.