AKRON, Ohio (AP) - A judge who will decide whether a former police captain should receive a new trial in the 1997 slaying of his ex-wife heard testimony from DNA experts as his latest hearing opened Wednesday.
Douglas Prade is seeking a new trial in the shooting death of Dr. Margo Prade, with his attorneys arguing there’s no physical evidence tying him to her slaying outside her Akron medical office.
The case has been bouncing around various courts after experts testified in 2012 that male DNA found on Margo Prade’s lab coat didn’t match her ex-husband’s.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Sara Hunter exonerated and freed Douglas Prade in January 2013 and wrote in a ruling that he should get a new trial if the exoneration were overturned.
An appeals court overturned Hunter’s decision, and the state Supreme Court refused to hear a subsequent appeal. After more motions and appeals, the decision about whether Prade should get a new trial has been left to Judge Christine Croce, who was assigned the case after Hunter’s retirement.
Prade, 69, was free for a year and a half before Croce ordered him to jail in July 2014 for 30 days and then back to prison, where he has remained.
The hearing was expected to resume Thursday after about 4 1/2 hours of testimony on Wednesday.
Croce has said she would allow only testimony and arguments about DNA evidence at this week’s hearing. But defense attorneys hope to convince Croce to consider an expert’s report that said bite mark testimony from prosecution experts during the 1998 trial would be inadmissible today.
Cleveland attorney David Alden said Prade was convicted in large part on testimony from forensic dental experts, one of whom said the bite mark on his ex-wife’s arm was made by him and another who said it was consistent with his dentition.
Standards in forensic dentistry have evolved since 1998, Alden said. Today, those experts wouldn’t have been allowed to testify that it was Prade who bit his ex-wife unless they were certain who might have been in her van when she was shot and killed on Nov. 26, 1997, Alden said.
“A lot of people have looked carefully at the forensic science of odontology and have said it doesn’t have a scientific basis,” Alden said.
Prade also is represented by attorneys with the Cincinnati-based Ohio Innocence Project.
Prosecutors have argued that it can’t be determined how much weight the jury gave the bite mark testimony and that there’s other evidence implicating Prade. A spokesman for Summit County prosecutor Sheri Bevan Walsh said the prosecutor’s office doesn’t comment on pending cases.
Alden said nothing about the tests that proved it wasn’t Prade’s DNA on the lab coat has changed.
“Testing exonerated him in 2012, and the same testing exonerates him today,” Alden said.
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