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Former Ohio Police Captain Exonerated After 15 Years in Prison Based on DNA Forensics Tests

Douglas Prade, a former Akron, Ohio Police Captain has been exonerated for the murder of his ex-wife after spending almost 15 years in prison. According to case number CR 1998-02-0463 (State V. Prade) at Summit County Court, DNA testing performed by the DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC), one of the largest DNA testing companies in the world, was a key factor in the court’s decision to overturn the conviction of Prade. DDC performed the DNA testing on behalf of the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP), an organization working on wrongful convictions.

“DNA evidence is a powerful tool to seek the truth and justice, and in this case, it spoke the truth, that Douglas Prade is innocent,” said Carrie Wood, the Ohio Innocence Project attorney working on the Prade case. “The Ohio Innocence Project is so grateful to DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC) for its commitment of time, energy and resources in this case. Because DDC was able to extract and analyze the DNA from the key piece of evidence, we were able to present the proof of Captain Prade’s innocence to the court.”

According to court documents Mr. Prade was convicted in 1998 of murdering his ex-wife, Dr. Margo Prade, based largely on a bite mark match found on the victim’s lab coat. Douglas Prade has maintained his innocence since the time of his arrest.

DDC took on Douglas Prade’s case as a neutral third-party in cooperation with the OIP as one of their thirty pro bono cases. Jessica York, of DDC, was the lead DNA analyst on the case. She obtained a Y-STR DNA profile from a bite mark on Dr. Margo Prade’s lab coat that did not match the former police captain. That DNA evidence was central to the court’s overturning Prade’s conviction.

While the unrelenting work of the legal team of OIP and Jones Day led to the overturned conviction, the science of DNA analysis may ultimately be the hero in this and similar cases.

OIP’s Wood noted that, “Dr. Heinig spent the time needed to carefully review the case and logically present the findings based on impartial scientific results.”

Peter Vitulli, President and CEO of DDC said, “I am proud to be part of a company that profoundly touches people’s lives in such a dramatic way. DDC has successfully assisted with six exonerations since 2008 and provides DNA expertise to Innocence Projects across the country. Our world-class facility and testing methods allow the science to speak for itself, and the expert testimony we provide clearly explains complicated issues. The freedom this has given to Captain Prade proves the power of DNA testing and proves the process works.”

Working pro bono with OIP lawyers were a team of attorneys from the Cleveland office of the widely recognized law firm of Jones Day, who served as lead counsel with OIP.

Commenting on the DDC scientific experts in the case, Jones Day attorney David Alden noted that Dr. Julie Heinig provided “invaluable assistance” and was “extremely informative, gracious and accommodating” in every phase if the defense and “did a great job on the stand…it was clear the court was favorably impressed.”

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