Convicted officer request for new trial denied

Posted at 2:43 PM, Mar 11, 2016

Convicted Akron police officer Douglas Prade's request new trial in the murder case of his ex-wife Margo Prade, due to the discovery of new evidence, was denied, according to court documents.

Prade said the court should grant a new trial based on newly discovered DNA evidence that, according to court documents, "could not in the exercise of due diligence have been discovered before that."

The court responded with the following:

"To warrant the granting of a motion for a new trial in a criminal case, based upon the ground of newly discovered evidence, it must be shown that the new evidence
(I) discloses a strong probability that it will change the result if a new trial is granted,
(2) has been discovered since the trial,
(3) is such that could not in the exercise of due diligence have been discovered before the trial,
(4) is material to the issues,
(5) is not merely cumulative to former evidence,
and (6) does not merely impeach or contradict the former evidence."

Dr. Goodsell, Prade's expert in the area of eyewitness memory and identification, testified at the October 2012 hearing regarding the three stages of memory (encoding, storage, and retrieval), as well as several factors that can affect memory and the accuracy of eyewitness identification, the court documents stated. The validity of eyewitness memory and identification has been questioned for years.

The court said in analyzing everything, it found that the expert eyewitness identification testimony did not disclose a strong probability that a different verdict would be reached if a new trial was granted. Though Goodsell's testimony and opinions did not exist in 1998, there was no reason his 2012 opinions would have made the outcome of the trial any different. 

The court said Goodsell's opinions were similar to those of the attorney's who worked with Prade back in 1998 and would not be considered as newly discovered evidence. 

"In support of his Motion for New Trial and a request for hearing, the Defendant argues that the developments in bite mark science that have occurred since 1998 completely discredit the State's reliance on the bite mark evidence at trial to link the Defendant to the crime. Defendant asserts that multiple highly credible authorities have since concluded that "the fundamental scientific basis for bite mark analysis [has never been established]," court documents stated.

The court said, again, though current experts in bite mark science were not around for Prade's 1998 trial, their opinions still would not have changed the outcome. It said the only thing that was newly discovered in the case was Prade's awareness of the current experts.

In regards to Prade arguing that Y-STR DNA testing completed in 2012 should be considered newly discovered evidence, the court responded:

"While the State concedes that Y-STR DNA testing was not available at the time of trial, it maintains that the Defendant was excluded as a possible DNA contributor in the 1998 trial, and that the new Y-STR test results did not bring about a different result. Alternatively, the State argues that even if the Court determines that Y-STR DNA testing and results are newly discovered evidence, the DDC test results relating to the bite-mark section of the lab coat are meaningless due to contamination, transfer or touch DNA, and/or analytical error. In support, the State asserts that the male DNA found on the bite mark section included extremely low levels of trace DNA, i.e. from 19.A.1 (3 — 5 cells) and 19.A.2 (approximately 10 cells), from possibly two up to five male persons, and that how or when that male DNA was deposited is unknown."

The court said Prade failed to demonstrate that the "alleged new bite mark" and eyewitness evidence established a strong enough case that it would change the outcome of his trial. 

According to court documents, Prade's request for a new trial was denied.

View the full court ruling here.

Kenya and Sahara Prade told the Akron Beacon Journal in a telephone interview that it wasn't in Prade's character to kill Dr. Margo Prade, who was found shot to death in a van parked outside her Akron medical office. A jury convicted Douglas Prade of aggravated murder and other charges in 1998, and a judge sentenced him to 26 years to life in prison.

The case has been in and out of the court system with appeals and conflicting rulings on a bite mark found on Margo Prade's lab coat. Prade's defense team argues his DNA doesn't match the mark.