Thursday, April 17, 2014
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 Maine Attorney General’s Office is “conspicuously absent” from a list of people and groups supporting a retrial for Dennis Dechaine, above, in a 12-year-old girl’s 1988 slaying, a reader says.
2012 File Photo/John Ewing
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 Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms 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 more than 24 years. In many states, including Texas, where enlightened, justice-oriented attorneys general 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
Backyard chicken suppliers perpetuate animal cruelty
As backyard chickens become popular ("Backyard chickens: Mainers 'give peeps a chance' -- even in Portland neighborhoods," June 9), it is important to note that the industrial hatcheries that provide egg-laying chicks to suppliers like Paris Farmers Union and Agway are also in the business of grinding up the vast majority of male chicks that also hatch.
This is referred to as "maceration," and this practice is considered a humane alternative to suffocating them in a trash bin. Male chicks are valuable only as a source of fertilizer and ingredient in pet food because the egg-layer breed of chicken is a skinnier bird and not profitable when compared to the chicken that is raised for its meat.
The American Humane Association has repeatedly called for the adoption of humane standards that take into account the entire life cycle of farm animals, but chickens continue to be the least protected group of farm animals.
Probably the most effective means of promoting cruelty-free chickens and eggs would be to get our elected representatives to introduce bills and write statutory laws that the U.S. Department of Agriculture can enforce.
Right now, it is possible to determine the sex of an embryonic chick early in its gestation, but additional research and funding need to be invested to make this a viable economic option. Likewise, the egg industry should also do the right thing and promote truly humane practices.
Research, support needed amid Alzheimer's epidemic
Currently the sixth leading cause of death, Alzheimer's is the only cause of death among the top 10 causes without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression.
Having lost my mother to dementia, I know the toll it can take on a family. That is why I went to Washington, D.C., in April to attend the 25th Alzheimer's Association Advocacy Forum.
I want to be a voice for people like my mother and for their caregivers so that Congress understands the challenges of watching Alzheimer's and related dementias slowly steal a cherished member of your family away -- before your very eyes.
While in Washington I had the privilege of meeting Sen. Angus King and Sen. Susan Collins. I have been appointed as an advocacy ambassador for Sen. King to keep him informed about current issues on this topic. Sen. Collins is already a strong advocate for Alzheimer's and has been involved continually in legislation.
The present issues are to seek support for funding the fiscal year 2014 budget request that includes $100 million for Alzheimer's research, education, outreach and caregiver support activities, as well as for the HOPE for Alzheimer's Act, which will improve care and outcomes for Americans living with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers.
Alzheimer's is not going away unless research is done to figure it out. In the meantime, families need the support to get through it. If you would like to become an Alzheimer's advocate, go to www.actionalz.org.
President pleads ignorance of administration's scandals
Benghazi, the IRS scandal and the Justice Department's invasion of The Associated Press' phone records all have two common threads.
One is that these actions benefited our president's re-election. The second is that our president knew nothing about them! He learned about them in the same manner that we, the uninformed and unconnected, learned about these things -- from the press. Somehow he managed to say this with a straight face.
Isn't the office of the presidency reputed to be the most powerful position in the world, with nearly unlimited resources, both overt and covert, to gather information? Where were these resources before these stories made the press?
Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill would start his staff briefings every day with the following: "What do you know that I don't know?" It would seem that President Obama is asking, "What do you know that I need to maintain plausible deniability about?"
Lately when I see our president on TV, I seem to hear the theme song to "Hogan's Heroes" play in my mind. I keep waiting for him to channel Sgt. Schultz as he says, "I know nothing"! I am beginning to believe him.
New technology will make tar sands obsolete option
I can't decide whether my state senator, Ron Collins, R-Wells, deserves a medal for bravery or foolishness for putting his name to the April 7 op-ed in favor of reversing the aging Portland Pipe Line ("Maine Voices: Oil sands should be part of energy mix").
Instead of carrying conventional crude, the pipeline would bring tar sands -- the dirtiest, most corrosive substance on the planet -- from Canada through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, to be loaded onto tankers in Casco Bay and eventually sold on the world market. Big favor to Big Oil, big risk of oil spills and no benefit to Maine.
We've lived through years of amazing innovations. But while your car may have an up-to-the-minute GPS system, you still have to gas up its internal combustion engine! You can work from home on a laptop computer, after you adjust the thermostat on the oil-burning furnace!
Why do we still have energy technology that hasn't changed since the days when one computer took up a whole building and keypunch cards were cutting-edge?
It's not like fossil fuel is easy to come by. Right now, Big Oil is harvesting tar sand by destroying Alberta's boreal forest, bird and animal habitats, displacing First Nations citizens and creating toxic tailings ponds so huge they can be seen from space. Big Oil just needs pipelines to get their filthy tar sand oil out of Canada.
Back in the day, even science fiction authors didn't predict the Internet -- couldn't imagine it. There must be comparable solutions to our energy needs that we can't even imagine now.
We still have a choice. If we can have smartphones and affordable laptops, why can't we have tiny, cheap, powerful solar panels heating our homes and supplying our electricity and leave the pipelines behind?