To err is human, and so, evidently, is the reluctance to admit to error.

An ethically evolved adult believes that admitting past mistakes is more important than saving one’s face, yet many cases of false conviction involve police, prosecutors and judges who act like the toddler who refuses to take responsibility for having spilled some milk.

Recently, Deputy Attorney General Bill Stokes defended the state’s 1992 incineration of evidence in the Dennis Dechaine case.

This destruction was carried out by the Attorney General’s Office, without informing the court or the defense, six weeks after Dechaine had filed an appeal of his conviction in the 1988 murder of Sarah Cherry.

Regarding destroyed hairs, Stokes wrote,:

“The hairs in question are meaningless. There were a few random hairs found on Sarah, but hair comparison evidence is of limited value and hairs are notoriously easy to transfer from one place to another, particularly on clothing. Unless you have a clump of hair in a victim’s fist, a hair or two means nothing.”

Really? Hairs found on a strangulation victim are meaningless?

Single hairs have identified killers and have also cleared the wrongfully convicted.

We cannot know if there was any root tissue, and, in any event, the FBI now routinely tests even clipped or shed hair for DNA.

If one hair had resembled Dechaine’s hair, it surely would have been entered as evidence at trial.

Given that such destruction would now be illegal, why does Stokes continue to defend the indefensible, and what was clearly a serious error at best?

Gov. LePage has announced his intention to nominate Bill Stokes for a superior court judgeship.

Should not judgeships be reserved for individuals whose dedication to the truth, no matter where the chips may fall, is beyond question?

You be the judge.

William Bunting