It's not something to be proud of, but there's always a bit of schadenfreude for criminal defense lawyers when a cop gets busted, convicted, and sent to the big house.*
So when the jury found Douglas Prade guilty of aggravated murder for killing his ex-wife, Margo, a physician, . . . well, you know, he was a captain in the Akron Police Department and as we know, cops get away with murder. But not this time. He's doing life. Been in the state pen for almost 14 years now. He's 66 now. He'll be 78 when he has his first hearing before the parole board (yes, first, there's likely to be a second or third before he gets parole) in July 2024.
So a small if slightly embarrassed inward grin. Yeah, inflict a little justice on the cops for a change.
The thing is, life has a way of biting you on the ass when you're feeling just a bit too smug.
Doug Prade knows a thing or two about that, I'd imagine. What with him probably being factually innocent and all.
Of course, it's the DNA. You know, the stuff the state spent years saying shouldn't be tested because it was, back in 1998, and no DNA implicated Doug. In fact, the only relevant DNA was Margo's.
Let me back up a second and tell a piece of the story.
Margo was shot in her van in a parking lot, but there was a struggle. The Ohio Supreme Court, in an opinion from May 2010, explained.
During the attack, Dr. Prade apparently tried to defend herself by using her arm to push the killer away. The killer bit her arm through two layers of clothing—her lab coat and her blouse— and left a bite mark on her arm.
The state's DNA expert said that the lab coat over the bite mark was
the best possible source of DNA evidence as to her killer's identity.
And so it was done. DNA from the lab coat was tested back in 1998. As I said, Margo's, from her blood.
The thing is that DNA technology keeps improving. In 1998, finding a second and substantially lesser donor of DNA in a spot covered with Margo's blood would have been just about impossible. And, of course, none was found.
Obviously, the lack of Doug's DNA complicated the state's case, but there was other evidence. One expert said the bite mark might (or might not) have been made by his teeth. Another expert said it definitely was. (His expert said it could not have been his teeth. And he was maybe at the scene (or maybe not). And there was life insurance and a divorce and . . . . Anyway, the jury said he did it.
Doug said he was innocent, and for 8 years or so has been pushing for more sophisticated, more discriminating DNA testing. It will, he's argued, show not just that I didn't bite her (and therefore was not the killer) but that someone else did.
For years the state said no. He shouldn't be allowed to prove his innocence that way. And the courts agreed right up until that 2010 decision by the Ohio Supreme Court which told the lower courts to reconsider.
Which they did.
And now. Here's Mike Wagner in the Columbus Dispatch.
The DNA testing, conducted by DNA Diagnostics Center of Fairfield, north of Cincinnati, focused on the lab coat Margo was wearing during the attack and specifically a bite mark left by her killer. Testing results released today found male DNA present within the bite mark but it didn’t match Prade.
Let's recap. Killer bit Margo through her lab coat. If there's DNA from someone other than Margo on that spot of the lab coat, it's the killer's. Testing of that spot reveals Margo's DNA and the DNA of some guy who isn't Doug.
Which means Doug didn't do it.
Though not to hear the prosecutor tell it. Oh, wait, never mind, the Columbus Dispatch hasn't been approved as a toady for prosecutors, so they can't get a quote.
Mary Ann Kovach, chief counsel for the Summit County prosecutors office, was reached by the Dispatch but said she couldn’t comment until the newspaper was cleared through her office’s public relations’ director.
Really though, it's too late. They've already taken a stand.
But in a brief responding to the DNA tests prosecutors say the results don’t prove Prade’s innocence and point to other evidence presented at trial that should uphold his conviction.
“The state stands by the jurors’ verdict,” the brief states. “A fundamental premise of our criminal trial system is that the jury is the lie detector.”
Get that? Their expert says that if there's DNA at that spot, it's the killer's. There's DNA at that spot. But since it isn't Doug's DNA, it's irrelevant say the prosecutors. The only evidence that would count is evidence that he's guilty.
Because the jury said he was guilty. And right or wrong, that's what counts.
Facts? Actual innocence? Who cares?
So now we have the answer to the question I've asked repeatedly in this blawg. And in courtrooms, too (though there I've skipped the profanity).
Q: Why not test the fucking DNA?
A: Why not? Because it might prove he's innocent, and since the jury said he's guilty, proof that he's innocent is irrelevant.
Which is stupid and mean spirited and venal and . . . .
I'd like to add that it's unAmerican. But given how hard so many prosecutors fight to make sure DNA doesn't get tested, I'm not sure that's right.
The old and not very funny joke is that any prosecutor can convict a guilty defendant but that it takes real talent to convict an innocent one.
Sadly, we learn every day that it isn't so. It's easy to convict the innocent.
What's hard is preventing them from trying to prove that's what happened.
* Except, of course, for those lawyers involved in the cop's defense. There's never any pleasure in having your client hauled off in shackles.