Judge Judy Hudson issued a ruling this week in the case of Doug Prade that resulted in the release of Mr. Prade after 15 years in prison. The Forensic Examiner discussed this case last August. As related in that piece, the facts are as follows:
In November of 1996, Dr. Margo Prade was found murdered in her van in the parking lot of her office, shot 6 times. Further examination of Ms. Prade’s body yielded the presence of a bite mark on the back of her left arm – presumably an indication of a struggle. At the time, DNA testing of the lab coat in the area of the bite mark produced a single female profile matching Dr. Prade. This was not a surprising result, given the vast amount of blood also on the lab coat.
With no eyewitnesses, no fingerprints, no murder weapon, Douglas Prade, Dr. Prade’s former husband, was convicted on the basis of bite mark evidence. Interestingly there were three bite mark witnesses. The defense expert testified Mr. Prade’s teeth “couldn’t” have left the mark, while one expert for the state testified Mr. Prade’s teeth were “consistent” with the mark and another expert for the state testified he was “sure” Mr. Prade’s teeth left the mark.
In the ensuing years, DNA testing has advanced, and it is now possible to do DNA testing seeking only male DNA, using Y-STR testing. Y-STR testing seeks to amplify DNA present on the Y chromosome, thus ignoring DNA from females. With this advance, lawyers for Mr. Prade successfully argued for an opportunity to retest the lab coat. The DNA Diagnostic Center provided the DNA test for free. The result yielded a male profile that did not match Mr. Prade.
Lawyers for Mr. Prade argued this was proof Mr. Prade was not the killer. Prosecutors argued this was proof of no such thing – that there are any number of explanations for the presence of male DNA on Dr. Prade’s lab coat which are perfectly innocent. Interestingly, no male DNA profiles were found elsewhere on the lab coat.
Judge Hudson’s ruling has resulted in Mr. Prade being released from prison. Summit County Prosecutor Sherry Bevan Walsh declared, “This is a gross misapplication of the law.” Ms. Walsh also offered her opinion of the value of the DNA evidence. "The DNA evidence presented by the Ohio Innocence Project on behalf of Prade is contaminated and unreliable. It does not prove innocence." She added, "We have not seen any credible evidence that suggests innocence, and we are taking all available actions to keep a dangerous killer off the streets,"
While the Summit County Prosecutor is pursuing the appeal, Mr. Prade will be living with his sister. He is looking forward to spending time with his grandchildren. Prior to his release but after he learned of the judges ruling, he stated, "I'm just a jumble of emotions and I just can't wait to hug all of my family."