Judge to consider whether ex-cop gets new trial

COLUMBUS — A former Akron police captain is entitled to a new trial in the 1997 slaying of his ex-wife because advanced scientific testing calls into question evidence that led to his conviction, his defense attorneys argued ahead of a court hearing.

Summit County Common Pleas Judge Christina Croce will hear arguments Friday in 69-year-old Douglas Prade’s case, marking the latest event in a lengthy legal battle.

Prade was convicted in 1998 of killing his ex-wife in her van outside her Akron medical office and was sentenced to life in prison.

Prade spent nearly 15 years in prison before being freed in January 2013 by Common Pleas Judge Judy Hunter, who has since retired. Hunter exonerated him after advanced DNA technology showed that the male DNA found on a bite mark on the coat of Dr. Margo Prade did not belong to her ex-husband.

But the 9th District Court of Appeals reinstated Prade’s conviction in March 2014, and the Ohio Supreme Court upheld that decision. With his conviction reinstated, Prade was sent back to prison.

Prade’s legal team wrote in court documents that the state’s case in 1998 was based largely on testimony surrounding the bite mark, noting three jurors said on national television that they wouldn’t have convicted Prade without the bite mark evidence. Even if the new DNA and bite mark evidence doesn’t prove Prade’s innocence, his attorneys argue, it generates questions and reasonable doubt that warrants a new trial.

Prosecutors argued in a separate filing that the new evidence wouldn’t change the result of the trial. They cite the 9th District Court of Appeals’ opinion stating it’s “wholly unclear” that the bite mark was the basis for the guilty verdict.

Prade is simply exhausting every possibility to overturn his verdict, prosecutors said.

“After all of these years of legal wrangling, no witness has recanted testimony, no other suspect has been identified, nor has there been any solid, non-speculative evidence brought forward that would clear Prade or bring his conviction into serious doubt,” prosecutors wrote in court documents.

When Hunter exonerated Prade, she stipulated that he should receive a new trial if her order was overturned but the appeals court ruled the new trial order was invalid.