Former Akron Police Capt. Douglas Prade got another setback this week in his quest for a new trial in his ex-wife’s murder.
The Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear Prade’s appeal of a decision by the 9th District Court of Appeals in September. The appellate court agreed with a trial court decision that found Prade shouldn’t get a new trial.
Prade, 72, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in the 1997 shooting death of his ex-wife, Dr. Margo Prade, inside her van at the parking lot of her Wooster Avenue medical office.
Prade sought a new trial based on DNA evidence that excluded his genetic markers from the most scrutinized evidence in the case — a bite mark impression left under two layers of a lab coat worn by Margo Prade on the morning of the slaying.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Christine Croce denied Prade a second trial in March 2017, saying Prade had "failed to introduce any new evidence that the jury had not already considered" in his original 1998 trial. She said the DNA evidence that another Summit County judge found should exonerate Prade was "meaningless" and likely wouldn't change the verdict in a new trial.
Brian Howe, one of Prade’s attorneys with the Ohio Innocence Project, said Thursday that the bite-mark evidence used to convict Prade is “now universally regarded as junk science” and prosecutors admit Prade is not the source of the DNA found on the bite mark.
“The courts have now decided that no jury should ever have a chance to hear this evidence,” Howe said. “The fact that Douglas Prade is sitting in prison right now represents a complete and total failure of the criminal legal system.”
Howe said he and Prade’s other attorneys are now exploring next steps.
“We will continue to pursue whatever options are available for Mr. Prade to present the evidence of his innocence,” he said.
Prosecutors, however, were satisfied with the high court’s decision.
“Douglas Prade stalked and terrorized Margo Prade before killing her,” Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said. “For more than 20 years, he has tried to avoid being held accountable for his actions. Now the Ohio Supreme Court has refused to review the case. It is my hope that this decision gives peace to the family and memory of Dr. Margo Prade.”
In January 2013, Prade was freed from prison after retired Summit County Common Pleas Judge Judy Hunter ruled the DNA evidence proved his innocence. An appeal by prosecutors sent him back to prison in October 2014.
Croce's decision focused on whether Prade should be granted a new trial based on the new DNA evidence, forensic odontology — the study of bite-mark evidence — and eyewitness testimony.
During oral arguments before Croce, David Alden, one of Prade's attorneys, said DNA evidence found near a bite mark on Margo Prade's coat and under four of her fingernails excludes Douglas Prade from the act — though the man the DNA belongs to hasn't been identified. He also questioned the reliability of matching teeth marks found beneath two layers of clothing on Margo Prade's body.
Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Brad Gessner, however, argued the bite mark and DNA wouldn't be enough to sway a future jury.
Croce agreed. She dismissed the relevance of the new evidence, repeatedly saying it "does not disclose a strong probability that a different verdict would be reached if a new trial is granted."
Prade is incarcerated at Lorain Correctional Institution. He is scheduled to have his first parole hearing in June 2025, according to the state prison website.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, email@example.com and on Twitter:@swarsmithabj.