Here’s what your readers should know about Janet Mills, Maine’s current attorney general, who is running for governor:

Last spring, L.D. 677 came before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. It attempted to amend Maine’s post-conviction review law to allow prisoners a fair chance for a retrial by establishing a legal basis for a claim of actual innocence. Supporting public testimony was presented by the New England Innocence Project, the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the ACLU of Maine. Committee members asked the state hard questions and seemed to be leaning in favor of the bill.

A week and a half later, the committee’s work session was attended by Mills. First, she introduced her chief of the office’s criminal division, Lisa Marchese, and then stood nearby while Marchese spoke of the then-ongoing Anthony Sanborn case as “an excellent example, if you ask me, of our current law working.” The inference was clear: That current law did everything LD 677 proposed; that it was not needed. And so the committee abruptly voted 12-0 “ought not to pass,” leaving Maine without any legal basis for a claim of actual innocence.

In my opinion, the suggestion that the new law is unnecessary is simply not true. Evidently the majority of the public – the electorate – agrees, as several years ago, 57 percent of them polled by Critical Insights favored a retrial for Dennis Dechaine, whose nearly 30 years of appeals have been denied often on procedural grounds, leaving his claim of actual innocence unheard and unexamined in court.

I urge voters to ask Mills the same kinds of hard questions the Judiciary Committee began asking before her presumed authority as attorney general misled them. We already have enough politicians in high places using that authority to offer mere opinion as self-serving fact.

Bernie Huebner


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