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Doug Prade exonerated from life sentence

With long-term help from UC students
who are in Ohio Innocence Project

by Deborah Rieselman

On Jan. 29, 2013, following nearly 15 years of serving a life sentence for a crime he didn't commit, former Akron police captain Douglas Prade, 66, walked out of the Madison Correctional Institution near Columbus, Ohio. Thanks to long-time efforts of the Ohio Innocence Project. Prade had been exonerated for the murder of his ex-wife, Margo, and deemed innocent. In 1997, he had been convicted of shooting her, but DNA from a bite-mark on her lab coat excluded him when the case went back to court.

To keep up his spirits while imprisoned, Prade says he read about 500 books and kept a journal of thousands of pages. On one page, he wrote the names of 20 UC College of Law students who had helped with his case, dating back to the group's founding in 2003. (Shown at right.)

"Each year, when new students took over his case, he crossed out the names of the outgoing students and wrote in the new names," says Mark Godsey, OIP director. "Doug told me today that this was among the most important pages in his personal diary."

Some of the listed students are now public defenders, federal prosecutors, Wall Street attorneys and an in-house corporate attorney, Godsey notes. "Some of them are very successful attorneys who got their first taste of the law with the OIP. All of them played a major role in freeing Douglas Prade and keeping his hopes alive for the past decade. I am very, very proud of every one of them."

Prade hopes to keep up this long-term UC relationship by helping the Innocence Project free others. "I am committed to help them use the 30 years of experience I've had as a police officer and the 15 years of experience as a wrongly convicted person," he said "There are thousands of innocent men and women in prison, and a lot of them don’t have the advantage of having DNA [to aid their cases].”

"Carrie Wood was the OIP staff attorney on the case, and she knocked it out of the park," Godsey adds. "Carrie's dedication and talent are an inspiration to her students and clients alike, and we are lucky to have her at this law school.  Nothing has demonstrated this fact as much as the result today."

In addition, the Cleveland law firm of Jones Day took over as lead counsel a few years back and "did a ton of work," he says.

Prade was the 16th person whom the OIP has freed. Godsey and his students began working on the case in 2003, the OIP's founding year. "Any time you get someone out of prison, it's rewarding," he says, "but when it's something you've had to fight for this long and this hard, it makes it even sweeter."

OIP was born because Lois and Richard Rosenthal's generosity created the UC College of Law's Institute for Justice. Most states have only one Innocence Project, and Ohio's is housed at the UC institute.



Above, Columbus Dispatch video of Doug Prade and his sister, Yvonne, right after his release from prison. Ohio Innocence Project director Mark Godsey is at right.