In Wrongful Conviction Cases, Prosecutors Don’t Give in Easily on Guilt, Compensation

John Caniglia
February 4, 2013
A judge has ruled that former Akron police captain Douglas Prade, above, be released from prison and granted a new trial.  Associated Press file  

Soon after Summit County Common Pleas Judge Judy Hunter exonerated Douglas Prade last week in the slaying of his former wife, prosecutors announced they would appeal.

At the same time, Cuyahoga County prosecutors said they would continue to appeal Joseph D’Ambrosio’s case — days after a judge ruled that he was wrongfully imprisoned for a slaying that put him on death row for about 21 years.

The cases highlight a mindset under which some prosecutors have continued their legal assaults on defendants after judges — following thorough, articulated reviews — attacked government attorneys as lacking even the basics needed to take their cases to trial.

And in the case of Prade, the judge went so far as to declare him innocent.

It has raised a growing concern about whether prosecutors are out to seek justice, as they are sworn to do, or to win cases at all costs.

“There is a litany of cases where some prosecutors have fought to keep convictions rather than work to find justice,” said Michael Benza, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University who also represented Brett Hartman. The state executed Hartman in November for the slaying of a woman in Summit County.

“It’s very difficult for some prosecutors to admit that they have made a mistake,” Benza said. “If you make a mistake in this case, how many other mistakes have you made?”

Defense attorney Terry Gilbert, who has represented D’Ambrosio in civil cases, agreed: “They hate to lose, and sometimes it’s difficult for them to accept responsibility when they are wrong.”