Ex-cop freed in killing can stay free, for now

AMANDA LEE MYERS Associated Press Published:

CINCINNATI (AP) -- A former Ohio police captain released after nearly 15 years in prison for his ex-wife's killing can remain free as the state's highest court considers whether to take on his case, the court ruled Wednesday.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruling will allow former Akron police Capt. Doug Prade to stay out of jail until at least the summer, when the court is expected to decide whether to consider Prade's appeal of a lower court's March ruling.

That ruling, by Ohio's 9th District Court of Appeals in Akron, found that Summit County Judge Judy Hunter was wrong to free Prade in January 2013 based on bite-mark DNA testing.

Hunter found that there was convincing evidence of Prade's innocence based on DNA tests of a bite mark found on the lab coat of Prade's ex-wife, Margo Prade. The tests showed the DNA did not match Doug Prade.

But the 9th District court said the DNA testing raised more questions than answers and that Prade's original conviction was based on overwhelming circumstantial evidence.

If the Supreme Court takes the case, Prade would remain free as the justices weigh whether to overturn or uphold the 9th District's ruling.

If the court turns down the case, the 9th Circuit's ruling would stand and Prade would have to go back to jail.

Prade's attorney, David Alden, said the Supreme Court's decision allowing Prade to remain free "is certainly a positive sign" that the court will take the case.

"If they thought we were full of it, they would have said, 'Put him back in jail,'" Alden said.

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said in a statement that she appreciates that the court is "carefully considering the questions put before it."

"We maintain that the information presented by the defense that supposedly proves Prade's innocence is, as stated by the 9th District Court of Appeals' judgment released last month, 'Wholly questionable' and 'meaningless,'" she said. "We will continue to seek justice for Dr. Margo Prade and her family."

Prosecutor Richard Kasay argued in a March 26 filing that Prade should be jailed pending his appeal, saying the former officer "has every motive to flee, knowing that he faces re-incarceration for aggravated murder because of the court of appeals decision."

Alden had argued that Prade posed no flight risk, had bought a house in Akron, and was spending time with his children and grandchildren.

"Mr. Prade is integrating into society," Alden wrote in a March 19 filing. "He has a place to live, and he was, is and will be an asset to society."

Prade was convicted in 1998 of shooting his 41-year-old ex-wife, a family practitioner, in her van outside her Akron office. There were no witnesses and no fingerprints, and no gun was found after the November 1997 shooting.

Prade is suing current and former police officers over his conviction, claiming he was framed.

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