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August 2, 2012

"Former Akron police captain excluded by DNA test"



(Comparative Criminal Procedure)




The title of this post is the headline of this new breaking new story about criminal procedure out of Ohio.  Here are excerpts:

New lab-test results show that DNA recovered from a murder scene in Summit County didn't come from a former Akron police captain who was convicted of killing his ex-wife nearly 15 years ago in a case that received national attention.

Douglas Prade, 66, is currently serving a life sentence at the Madison Correctional Institution, but has always maintained his innocence after being convicted in September of 1998. Prade was found guilty of shooting his ex-wife, Margo, a prominent Akron doctor and the mother of his two daughters. Margo was shot six times following a struggle in her van in a parking lot outside of her office.

“They are not going to find my DNA because I didn’t do it,” said Prade in a prison interview with the Dispatch last year. “This has always been about seeking and revealing the truth.”...

The DNA testing, conducted by DNA Diagnostics Center of Fairfield, north of Cincinnati, focused on the lab coat Margo was wearing during the attack and specifically a bite mark left by her killer. Testing results released today found male DNA present within the bite mark but it didn’t match Prade. Further testing of the lab coat performed by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations during the past several months didn’t detect the presence of other male DNA. Fingernail scrapings from Margo Prade and other items collected from the crime scene were also tested and excluded Douglas Prade’s DNA.

Attorneys at the Ohio Innocence Project, based at the University of Cincinnati, say the testing results prove Prade’s innocence and he should be exonerated. They are asking Summit County Common Pleas Judge Judy L. Hunter to set Douglas Prade free or, at the very least, grant him a new trial. A hearing in Akron to determine the significance of the new testing results is scheduled for Aug. 21....

[I]n a brief responding to the DNA tests prosecutors say the results don’t prove Prade’s innocence and point to other evidence presented at trial that should uphold his conviction. “The state stands by the jurors’ verdict,” the brief states. “A fundamental premise of our criminal trial system is that the jury is the lie detector.”

In their brief, prosecutors focus on evidence they presented at trial showing that Douglas Prade was having financial problems following his divorce from Margo. Police discovered a bank deposit slip with a list of debts written on the back of it. The total of those debts was subtracted from $75,000, the amount of Margo’s Prade’s life insurance policy on which Douglas Prade was listed as the beneficiary. Prosecutors say the date on the deposit slip, Oct. 8, 1997, show that he was already plotting Margo’s murder at least seven weeks before the attack in the parking lot.

But Douglas Prade has argued that he didn’t compile the financial list until several weeks after her his ex-wife’s death. His attorneys also say in their legal brief that Prade used more than half of the $75,000 from the life insurance policy to pay off Margo’s tax bills and he still had $18,000 remaining from the policy at the time of his arrest.

Douglas and Margo, 41, were married for 17 years before divorcing about seven months before she was killed.

Needless to say, this case is just the latest of examples highlighting some (unavoidable?) uncertainty about the accuracy of our criminal justice system.  But it also raises difficult issues concerning how to address accuracy questions raised long after a conviction.  (Also, before clicking through to the newspaper link, think about what you think might be the race and/or nationality of Douglas Prade.)

August 2, 2012 in Current Affairs, Notable real cases | Permalink


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