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Court of Appeals reverses ruling exonerating Prade

3/20/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

DOWNTOWN AKRON — The 9th District Court of Appeals reversed former Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Judy Hunter’s ruling exonerating former Akron Police Capt. Douglas Prade in the murder of his ex-wife, Dr. Margo Prade.

“In order to be exonerated, Prade and his attorneys needed to show clear and convincing evidence of his innocence — not simply create doubt,” said Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh. “They failed.”

In a unanimous judgment released March 19, Court of Appeals Judge Beth Whitmore wrote that Hunter, who retired this past July, abused her discretion in declaring Prade innocent.

According to Walsh, the court deemed Prade’s latest DNA results “wholly questionable” and the exclusion of his DNA “meaningless.” According to Walsh, after citing the numerous pieces of evidence used to convict Prade in 1998, the court found that “[g]iven the enormity of the evidence in support of Prade’s guilt and the fact that the meaningfulness of the DNA exclusion results is far from clear, this court cannot conclude that Prade set forth clear and convincing evidence of actual innocence.”

Prade has a motion for a new trial pending in Summit County Common Pleas Court, according to Walsh. Common Pleas Court Judge Christine Croce, who was appointed to Hunter’s seat upon her retirement, must decide whether to issue a new trial or send Prade back to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence, Walsh said. The state is filing a motion for a capias warrant on Prade to permit law enforcement to return him to prison based on the appellate court’s decision, according to Walsh.

Judge Croce has scheduled a status hearing for tomorrow, March 20, at 9 a.m., and Prade is ordered to appear, according to the judge’s bailiff, Kenneth Masich.

A jury convicted Prade in 1998 of murdering his ex-wife. The Ohio Innocence Project, on behalf of Prade, filed a petition for either post-conviction relief or a new trial based on its claim that new DNA testing would prove Prade’s innocence.

Hunter issued a ruling Jan. 29, 2013, exonerating Prade of his ex-wife’s murder. The state appealed her ruling to the 9th District Court of Appeals on the grounds that the DNA did not show Prade’s innocence.

Prade’s conviction on six counts of interception of wire, oral or electronic communications and one count of possessing criminal tools was not part of his motion for his conviction to be overturned, according to Walsh.

Maria Lindsay contributed to this report.

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