CLEVELAND (AP) – Attorneys for a former Akron police captain serving 26 years to life in prison after a jury convicted him in 1998 of killing his ex-wife will argue at hearings in Akron that their client deserves a new trial because there’s no physical evidence that ties him to the slaying.
The case of Douglas Prade, 69, has been bouncing around various courts after experts testified in 2012 that male DNA found on Margo Prade’s lab coat didn’t match her ex-husband’s. Summit County Common Pleas Judge Sara Hunter, who has since retired, exonerated and freed Prade in January 2013 and wrote in a ruling that Prade should get a new trial if the exoneration was overturned.
An appeals court did overturn Hunter’s decision and the Ohio Supreme Court refused to hear a subsequent appeal. After more motions and appeals, the decision about whether Prade should get a new trial has been left to Judge Christine Croce, who was assigned the case after Hunter’s retirement. Prade was free for 18 months before Croce ordered Prade to jail in July 2014 for 30 days and then back to prison, where he’s remained.
Hearings in the case begin Wednesday afternoon. Croce has said she would only allow testimony and arguments about DNA evidence at this week’s hearings. But defense attorneys hope to convince Croce to consider an expert’s report that said bite mark testimony from prosecution experts during the 1998 trial would be inadmissible today.
Cleveland attorney David Alden said Prade was convicted in large part on testimony from forensic dental experts, one of whom said the bite mark on Margo Prade’s arm was made by her ex-husband and another who said it was consistent with his dentition. Standards in forensic dentistry have evolved since 1998 and in the last few years, Alden said. Today, those experts wouldn’t have been allowed to testify that it was Prade who bit his ex-wife unless they were certain who might have been in Margo Prade’s van when she was shot and killed Nov. 26, 1997, Alden said.
“A lot of people have looked carefully at the forensic science of odontology and have said it doesn’t have a scientific basis,” Alden said.
Prade also is represented by attorneys with the Cincinnati-based Ohio Innocence Project.
Prosecutors have argued that it can’t be determined how much weight the jury gave the bite-mark testimony and that there’s other evidence implicating Prade. A spokesman for Summit County Prosecutor Sheri Bevan Walsh said on Tuesday that the prosecutor’s office doesn’t comment on pending cases.
Alden said nothing about the tests that proved it wasn’t Prade’s DNA on the lab coat has changed.
“Testing exonerated him in 2012, and the same testing exonerates him today,” Alden said.
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