A Message from the Prosecutor PDF Print E-mail

MESSAGE FROM THE PROSECUTOR

What’s the Cliff Notes version of the Doug Prade case?

Doug Prade, a former Akron Police Department captain, was convicted by a jury in 1998 for the murder of his estranged wife, Dr. Margo Prade. In 2012, attorneys for Prade had additional DNA testing done. They claimed that the additional DNA results proved Prade did not kill his wife. In January 2013, Summit County Common Pleas Judge Judy Hunter agreed and exonerated Prade. The State appealed his exoneration to the Ninth District Court of Appeals. The Court ruled on Wednesday, March 19 that Judge Hunter abused her discretion and never should have released Prade from prison.  The State asked that Prade be sent back to prison. But Prade filed a notice of appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, which said Prade should be freed temporarily.

Why did the Prosecutor’s Office appeal Prade’s exoneration?

The State disagreed with Judge Hunter’s ruling that DNA evidence proves Prade did not kill his wife. The State says the latest DNA tests prove nothing and are irrelevant to the case.

Prosecutors often use DNA evidence to prove guilt. Why is this case any different?

The DNA in question involves a 2.5 inch by 2 inch section of Dr. Prade’s lab coat. The prosecution and defense have always agreed that Dr. Prade’s killer bit her arm during a struggle. That bite left a mark on her coat and a bruise on her arm.

The defense claims that:

  1. 1.The killer left DNA from his saliva on that section of lab coat.
  2. 2.If we can identify the owner of that DNA, then we know the identity of the killer.

Those are great theories, except that there is no saliva on that section of the lab coat. Before the 1998 trial, the FBI cut a few sections of that bite mark area and tested it for saliva and DNA. The FBI found no saliva and no DNA. Those sections were preserved in sealed test tubes.

In 2012, a lab retested those preserved sections as well as a piece of material cut from the bite mark area. Even with advanced testing, those preserved sections don’t contain any saliva or DNA. However, the newly cut piece of material showed some partial male DNA profiles. None of those match Prade, which the defense says proves he didn’t bite (or kill) Dr. Prade.

The State and DNA experts from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations say that the DNA on the newly cut piece of material is meaningless. The sections that were preserved show the same thing they did when originally tested in 1998: nothing. The new section, which was handled by several people and never preserved in any way, shows traces of DNA but no saliva. Something doesn’t add up.

What did the appellate court say?

The appellate court released a unanimous judgment saying that Judge Hunter abused her discretion in exonerating Prade. Judge Whitmore said that the latest DNA results raised more questions than answers and that, when you look at those results along with all of the other evidence used to convict Prade in 1998, the jury still would have convicted him.

The appellate court’s ruling negates everything Judge Hunter did. So Prade is once again a convicted murderer who is supposed to be serving a life sentence.

You can read the entire decision here.

I keep hearing that Prade is getting a new trial. Is that true?

That hasn’t been decided yet. Prade submitted two motions at the same time to Judge Hunter. One asked that his conviction be overturned. The other asked for a new trial. Both were based on his claim that new DNA testing proves his innocence.

Judge Hunter knew the Prosecutor’s Office would appeal Prade’s exoneration, so she also said that Prade was entitled to a new trial if her exoneration was overturned. However, the appellate court quickly said she couldn’t rule on something that hadn’t happened yet. They said that you either exonerate someone or you give them a new trial, but you can’t rule based on predicting what might happen in the future. The appellate court said that Judge Hunter’s ruling granting a new trial was null and void, meaning that Prade’s motion for a new trial is still pending in the Court of Common Pleas.

How did the Supreme Court get involved?

When the appellate decision was released on March 19, Prade’s attorneys asked the Ohio Supreme Court for two things. First, they asked the Supreme Court to review Prade’s case. Second, they asked for a stay of execution of the appellate court’s ruling. The Supreme Court has not yet said whether it will hear Prade’s case, but it did grant a temporary stay on March 20, just hours after Prade was taken back into custody. The Supreme Court said Prade should be temporarily released from jail until it can review a response from the State as to why Prade should be in custody. Then the Supreme Court will decide whether Prade should remain free or go back to prison.

When will the Supreme Court rule on Prade’s appeal?

The Supreme Court has not yet said whether it will hear Prade’s appeal. An appeal to the Supreme Court is discretionary, meaning the Supreme Court decides if it will hear an appeal or not. The first step is filing a notice of appeal, which Prade did on March 19. If the Supreme Court says it will hear Prade’s appeal, then his attorneys will draft and submit their appeal. The State will then file a response. After those are filed, the Supreme Court will schedule oral arguments. Then the Supreme Court will issue its ruling.

As to the stay, the State must file a response by March 30. The Court will rule on that stay any time after the response is filed.

What happens if the Supreme Court refuses to hear Prade’s case?

If the Supreme Court refuses to hear Prade’s case, then the appellate court’s ruling stands and Prade remains convicted of murdering Dr. Margo Prade. It also means jurisdiction returns to Summit County, and Judge Christine Croce, who took over when Judge Hunter retired, must decide whether Prade should receive a new trial.