Exonerated on April 3, 2003
In March 1984, Dennis Maher was found guilty of the rape and assault of two women in Lowell on consecutive evenings in November 1983. In April 1984, he was convicted of the August 1983 rape of a third woman in Ayer. Maher was arrested on the night of the second assault in Lowell because he matched the victim’s description of the perpetrator wearing a red hooded sweatshirt. There was no DNA evidence linking him to the crime, but the three women did pick him out from photographs, despite their varying descriptions. After his second trial, Maher was sentenced to life in prison. Under Massachusetts law in effect at the time of his convictions, he was also civilly committed to Bridgewater Treatment Center.
Maher, a U.S. Army sergeant at the time of his arrest, consistently asserted his innocence. In December 2002, DNA test results excluded Maher as the source of semen in the Lowell rape cases. In February 2003, the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office located a slide prepared from the rape kit of the Ayer rape at the Ayer Police station. DNA testing on this slide excluded Maher as the source of semen in the Ayer rape. In April 2003, after 19 years in prison, Dennis Maher was exonerated. Today, Maher is married with two children and is a member of the New England Innocence Project’s Board. Maher does speaking engagements throughout New England to promote awareness about wrongful convictions. He has also testified in front of various New England legislatures about reforms that would decrease the number of wrongful convictions.