AKRON, Ohio – Summit County Common Pleas Judge Christine Croce will take her time deciding if former Akron Police Captain Doug Prade will get a new trial for the 1997 murder of his wife Margo Prade.
The victim was found shot to death in her minivan behind her medical office building on November 26, 1997.
Prade was convicted of the murder in 1998 and served fifteen years of a life sentence before Summit County Common Pleas Judge Judith Hunter declared him innocent based on new DNA evidence, and ordered him to be set free.
Her decision was overruled by an appeals court in March of 2014 that concluded the new DNA evidence really only creates more questions than answers about the case.
With that ruling, Judge Croce ordered Prade to be returned to prison in October to continue serving his original life sentence.
The DNA evidence that is now in question was collected from a lab coat the victim was wearing when she was killed.
A bite mark on the lab coat is believed to have been left by her killer.
When the area was tested by the FBI in 1998 they found no DNA from saliva.
But defense attorneys say new technology helped identify DNA in 2013 that wasn’t available during the new trial.
That DNA, they argue, is from an unknown male, not from Doug Prade.
They argue it is also almost certainly from Dr. Prade’s killer.
Defense Attorney David Alden of Jones Day in Cleveland argued on Friday that all he needed to do was to show that the new evidence could create reasonable doubt in the mind of at least one juror.
He argued that if it was enough to convince Judge Hunter of his innocence, then it should also be enough to convince a new jury.
Alden also argued on Friday that bite mark evidence is viewed differently by experts now than it was during Prade’s original trial and in the absence of DNA evidence in 1998 it was the bite mark evidence that convinced at least some jurors to find Prade guilty.
“We know that there was male DNA, that male DNA was not Mr. Prade’s absolute 100-percent certainty, every expert says that,” argued Alden.
Prosecutors, however, have argued that the DNA could be the result of contamination from what the appeals courts have called a ‘well-traveled piece of evidence.’
Prosecutors believe if the original testing of the sample in 1998 showed no DNA from saliva on the bite mark at the time it is possible the discovery of DNA there in 2013 could be the result of the sample being handled by witnesses, jurors and others over the years.
Prosecutors called Prade a serial stalker who had threatened to kill his wife.
While Prade’s defense attorneys argue that there is also plenty of reasonable doubt regarding other evidence from the original trial, prosecutors asked Judge Croce to consider that it was the totality of that evidence that convinced the original jury to convict him.
Judge Croce said she will consider all of the arguments and briefs that attorneys have submitted.
She said she will issue a written ruling about a new trial after she also takes the time to review the entire transcript of the original trial.
Prade, meanwhile, will remain in a state prison.