A Summit County, Ohio judge is considering whether former Akron Police Captain Doug Prade should receive a new trial, after an appeals court rejected his motion. The Ohio Ninth District Court of Appeals rejected Prade’s exoneration They overruled a lower court’s ruling that new DNA evidence showed Prade was not the killer. They stated that the evidence was inconclusive and that the judge abused her discretion. Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Christine Croce will now decide whether to allow or deny Prade a new trial. Both Prade and the state have the option to appeal the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court.
A year ago, Judge Judy Hunter exonerated Prade, but ordered that he receive a new trial if an appeals court overturned his exoneration. The Ninth District ruled that Judge Hunter’s stipulation of a new trial made the order conditional and not final.
The 16-year-old case has been a roller coaster ride for everyone involved. After Prade’s exoneration he was released from prison, but returned to prison not long afterward because the state convinced a judge that because the exoneration was denied Prade is technically still convicted as a new judge decides whether the stipulation of a new trial should be made into a final order.
Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Greg Peacock said, “He should not be free.”
Prade is being represented by the Ohio Innocence Project. At the heart of their motion for a new trial is the controversial science of bitemark comparisons and new DNA evidence. The DNA found in the bitemark does not belong to Prade.
Brian Howe of the Ohio Innocence Project said, “He looks forward to defending himself in a new trial.”
During Prade’s 18 months of freedom, he visited his family and “was living a normal life. He was moving on…”
Margo Prade, Doug Prade’s ex-wife, a 41-year-old physician was found dead in her minivan outside her office on November 26, 1997. She had been bitten through her lab coat and shot six times at close range. Margo Prade had divorced her husband 7 months before her death and that was considered the motive by prosecutors. Doug Prade was convicted of aggravated murder by a jury and sentenced to life in prison in part because of an expert dentist who testified that Prade’s teeth were a match to the bite. The science is largely controversial and has been disproven in other cases.
Currently, the prosecution is arguing that the judge can order or deny a new trial. The defense is arguing that the high court meant for the judge to make the new trial stipulation a final order.
Prade was being housed in the county jail system, but the judge has ordered him sent back to state prison “because of the time involved” in making her decision. In addition, Prade’s defense is appealing to the Ohio Supreme Court arguing that the new trial ruling from Judge Hunter was a final order and that the appeals court was wrong.
Judge Croce has called the case legal “ping-pong”. Both families see the case completely differently. Prade’s family believes he is innocent and that justice should be served. Margo Prade’s family believes that Doug Prade is guilty and a few them of them say that they were stressed and afraid when he was released though no incidents occurred.