Man wrongfully convicted of rape to speak in Portland

Posted Sept. 12, 2010, at 10:47 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:33 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Dennis Maherin, convicted in 1984 of raping two women and assaulting a third, was exonerated by DNA evidence and released in April 2003 after serving 19 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Maher will be the featured speaker at a luncheon after this year’s Red Mass at the Portland Country Club, 11 Foreside Road, Falmouth. The Red Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Richard Malone at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 15, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 307 Congress St.

Judges, lawyers, government officials and people of all faiths attend the Mass to invoke God’s blessing and guidance in the administration of justice. Members of the state’s legal community have participated in the Red Mass since it was reinstated in 1998 by Bishop Joseph Gerry, who is now retired.

With assistance from the Innocence Project, Maher was exonerated by DNA evidence, according to a story previously published in The Boston Globe.

He was arrested in November 1983 when he was then a 23-year-old Army sergeant assigned to Fort Devens in Ayer, Mass. He had no criminal record. Mayer was convicted in 1984 and sentenced to life in prison.

Last year, Maher, now 50, was awarded $3.1 million in a settlement with the town of Ayer, just days before his federal lawsuit alleging wrongful conviction was scheduled to go to trial, according to the Globe. He now works as a mechanic and lives in Tewksbury, Mass., with his wife and two children.

The name “Red Mass” is derived from the red vestments worn by the celebrants of the Mass. The vestments symbolize the tongues of fire that indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit and recall the traditional bright scarlet robes worn by attending royal judges many centuries ago.

In Washington, D.C., the Red Mass traditionally has been celebrated in the Cathedral of Saint Matthew. The Mass has been attended by leading members of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, including the president, members of the U.S. Supreme Court, members of the diplomatic corps and other distinguished guests of all religious faiths.

The Red Mass, which began in Paris in the 13th century, is one of four special services held by the Diocese of Portland. Catholics celebrate a White Mass in February to honor the medical profession.

The Green Mass, which honors those who work to protect the environment, was held Saturday, Sept. 11, at Holy Family Catholic Church in Old Town. The Blue Mass to honor emergency and public safety workers was held Sunday, Sept. 12, at the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul in Lewiston.

For more information about the luncheon after the Red Mass, call Denise Plourde at 791-1210.

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