Appellate attorneys for Douglas Prade, the former Akron police captain who is serving 26 years to life for the 1987 murder of his ex-wife say that he deserves a new trial because there is no physical evidence against him. It’s a familiar road as Prade was actually exonerated previously and then a prosecutorial appeal put him back behind bars.
The case of Prade, 69, has been shuffled from court to court after experts testified in 2012 that male DNA found on Margo Prade’s lab coat, which she was wearing at the time of her murder, didn’t match Prade. Summit County Common Pleas Judge Sara Hunter, who has since retired, exonerated Prade in 2013 and wrote that Prade should get a new trial if a higher court, overturned his exoneration.
An appeals court overturned Hunter’s decision and the Ohio Supreme Court refused to take up the matter, so more motions and more appeals have been filed over Prade’s new trial. This matter is now left to Judge Christine Croce. Prade was free for about a year and a half before Croce ordered him back in jail, where he’s remained.
Hearings begin this week and Croce said she would only allow testimony and arguments about DNA evidence. But Prade’s attorneys have much more to present including an expert that says the bite-mark evidence, a controversial and repeatedly debunked forensic science, used by the prosecution during the trial should be inadmissible.
Prade was convicted, in large part, by prosecution dental experts who said that a bite mark on Margo Prade’s arm matched his dental impressions. Standards in forensics in 1988 were vastly different from today. New research over the years and questions about forensic science disciplines raised in 2009 by the National Academy of Sciences have brought the issue of junk science vs. real science to the forefront. Today, few if any experts would ever claim that a bite-mark matched someone’s dentition.
Margo Prade was shot and killed on November 26, 1987.
“A lot of people have looked carefully at the forensic science of odontology and have said it doesn’t have a scientific basis,” said Cleveland attorney David Alden.
Prosecutors are arguing that it can’t be determined if jurors believed the bite-mark testimony and took it into account because there is other evidence against Prade. The prosecution hasn’t commented on the DNA tests that exclude Prade.
“Testing exonerated him in 2012, and the same testing exonerates him today,” Alden said.