Prosecutors Want Prade Jailed after Appellate Ruling
More than a year after Ohio Innocence Project client Douglas Prade was cleared of a 1997 murder based on new DNA results that excluded him as the source of critical crime scene evidence, an appellate court has reversed the ruling that freed him. Prade was a former Akron police captain when he was convicted in 1998 of the murder of his ex-wife, Dr. Margo Prade, and sentenced to life in prison. He served nearly 15 years in prison before his release early last year. The Akron Beacon Journal reported that the 71-page reversal opinion released Wednesday by Akron's 9th District Court of Appeals could send Prade back to prison. In a statement issued after the opinion became public, Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said the ruling gives her office the authority to take him into custody. Prade was declared innocent in January 2013 by now retired Summit County Judge Judy Hunter. The judge's decision was based on the results of new DNA tests which showed that DNA found on a bite mark left of the victim when she was murdered did not belong to Prade, but Walsh claims his attorneys failed to show clear and convincing evidence of his actual innocence. The three-judge panel claimed that Judge Hunter abused her discretion in declaring Prade innocent and said that the DNA exclusion was not grounds for exoneration. The opinion went on to support the evidence against Prade presented at trial. Prade, who is now living with family members on Akron's west side, has yet to be taken into custody. His attorneys at the Ohio Innocence Project and David B. Alden of the Jones Day firm in Cleveland will oppose any such action by seeking a stay in a Summit County court hearing, and possibly in an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. Alden told the Journal, "We strongly disagree with the Court of Appeals' decision. The trial court correctly determined that Mr. Prade is actually innocent, and we will continue to work for justice on his behalf." Read the full article. Read the decision.
New DNA Points to Innocence of North Carolina Man
The Innocence Project filed legal papers today urging a Durham County court to overturn the murder and arson convictions of Darryl Anthony Howard based on new DNA and undisclosed evidence pointing to his innocence. In November 1991, a mother and her 13-year-old daughter were found nude and strangled on a bed in their burned apartment. Sperm was found in the girl's anus and injuries to the mother indicated she had been sexually assaulted. The medical examiner concluded that the daughter, Nishonda, died as a result of strangulation and the mother, Doris W., died from blunt force trauma to her abdomen. A Durham fire investigator determined that the fire had been intentionally set. DNA testing before trial excluded Howard as the source of the sperm from the daughter, but Assistant District Attorney Mike Nifong told the jury that investigators never suspected either victim was sexually assaulted much less that sexual assaults were involved in the homicides. However, new evidence never disclosed to the defense reveals that just days after the murders the state was told that the crimes involved sexual assault and the victims were murdered by more than one perpetrator who were drug dealers collecting an outstanding debt. New DNA testing points to two different men - neither of whom was Howard - as the real perpetrators. One of these men has been identified through the CODIS DNA data bank and has an extensive criminal record involving drug crimes and assaults. Almost a year after the crimes, police arrested Howard. At trial, no eyewitness was produced who claimed to have seen Howard commit the crime and no physical evidence linked Howard to the crime scene. Two witnesses claimed to have seen Howard argue with and threaten Doris the day before the crime, but these accounts varied. One of these witnesses recanted his statement after trial, signing a sworn affidavit that Detective Darryl Dowdy coerced him into implicating Howard. The other, Roneka Jackson, was paid $10,000 from a state compensation fund for her testimony. Five months after Howard's trial, Jackson was murdered with the same modus operandi used in these crimes. Jackson was choked and her body was set on fire by members of the New York Boys, a drug gang that was known for dealing drugs in the victims' neighborhood. The New York Boys was the drug gang Howard's defense counsel suggested were probably responsible for the murders. Howard did not deny being near the crime scene on the night of the murders. He and his then-girlfriend testified at trial that they were at a friend's apartment on the night of the murders and went to an apartment near the victims' home when they saw smoke coming from Doris' apartment. Despite the clear evidence of sexual assault - two women found nude on one bed, one with blood and a laceration in her vagina and the second - a 13-year-old girl - with sperm in her anus and vagina - Dowdy testified that the crimes were never investigated and never even suspected to involve a sexual assault. Nifong, who was subsequently disbarred and held in contempt for his misconduct in the Duke Lacrosse case, repeated those claims in his closing arguments to the jury. In his summation, Nifong told the jury that "despite the fact that this case was never investigated as a sexual assault and it was never suspected to be a sexual assault [defense counsel] wants to make it a sexual assault and why, because he knows the defendant never had sex with Nishonda or Doris. So, if he makes you believe that the killer was somebody who had sex with him [sic] then obviously it couldn't be the defendant." To account for the sperm recovered from 13-year-old Nishonda's anus, Dowdy testified, without explanation, that Nishonda was away from home with her boyfriend for almost a week prior to her murder. Nifong argued to the jury that "[h]ow [that sperm] got there I can't tell you [but] I would submit to you that a 13-year-old who can be gone for five days with her boyfriend is not somebody with whom sex is going to be an unknown subject." In papers filed today, the Innocence Project presents newly discovered DNA evidence that demonstrates that Howard did not commit these crimes. New DNA testing of Doris' rape kit identified the male DNA profile of J. Jones, a career criminal with more than 35 prior convictions. When questioned as to how his DNA could have been found in Doris, Jones falsely claimed that he never met Doris and had consensual sex with Nishonda the night before her murder. Post-conviction DNA testing was also conducted on Nishonda's vaginal and anal swabs. Testing identified a male profile that excluded Howard and did not match Jones. Because the DNA profile found in Nishonda's rape kit was only a partial profile, it could not be uploaded into CODIS to identify the real assailant. Through open file discovery, the Innocence Project discovered a memo that was never disclosed to Howard's trial counsel that is completely consistent with the new DNA testing. The memo reveals that Durham police received a detailed tip from a confidential informant four days after the murders that the crimes involved sexual assault and the victims were murdered by more than one perpetrator because Doris owed $8,000 to drug dealers from "either Philadelphia or New York." A note on the first page of the memo reads: "Dowdy There may be something to this. I don't remember any public info on the rape. EES." Read a copy of the motion filed today and view the exhibits. Read more from the Washington Post and today's press release.
Idaho Woman Released from Prison after More than a Decade
An Idaho woman who spent more than a decade behind bars was released last Friday and sent home to resume her life. Idaho Innocence Project client Sarah Pearce was one of four people convicted of a June 2000 roadside kidnapping, beating and stabbing of a motorist. The Idaho Statesman reported that Pearce's life sentence was amended last week to time served plus five years of supervised release. Last month, the Statesman reported that the Idaho Innocence Project identified another woman as the perpetrator who was initially a suspect until she passed a lie detector test. The project's director, Greg Hampikian, said the lie detector results were called into question after his client had been convicted and it was too late. The assailant was initially described as a short woman who appeared to be the girlfriend of one of the men and spoke Spanish in front of the victim. Hampikian noted that Sarah is taller and does not speak Spanish. While the victim maintains that Pearce was the ringleader in the attack, Pearce maintains her innocence and says she was misidentified. The Statesman reports that Pearce said, "This is a tragic misidentification . . . I did not commit this crime, but all the same I was punished for it. The experience goes almost too deep for words. I will try to walk away from this taking more from it than it has taken from me." Pearce was joined in court by her mom and dozens of friends and representatives from the Idaho Innocence Project, which took on her case in 2007. Read the full article.
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