Judge to hear new trial arguments for ex-officer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The case of a former Akron police captain imprisoned for killing his ex-wife in 1998, exonerated, freed and then thrown back in jail enters another legal phase following a judge's decision Monday to hear arguments over a new trial.

At issue is the interpretation of an appeals court ruling last week in the case against Douglas Prade.

Attorneys for Prade say the Ninth District Court of Appeals is requiring Summit County judge Christine Croce to order a new trial, while prosecutors say the court left it up to Croce to decide. Croce scheduled the hearing for next Monday.

Prade spent nearly 15 years in prison in the shooting death of Dr. Margo Prade, who was killed in her van outside her Akron medical office. Prade was sentenced to life in prison with a chance for parole in 26 years.

A now-retired judge exonerated Prade in January 2013 after DNA tests showed that a bite mark on Dr. Prade's lab coat did not come from her ex-husband. She also made what has been described as a "conditional order" that if her ruling exonerating Prade was overturned, he should receive a new trial.

Prade was jailed again last month, following an appeals court decision in March to overturn Judge Judy Hunter's decision to free Prade.

In its March ruling, the appeals court said the DNA testing only raised more questions than answers and Prade's original conviction was based on overwhelming circumstantial evidence.

The appeals court on Thursday said that to make the motion for a new trial a "final order," the judge must simply re-enter the order "granting the motion for a new trial on an unconditional basis."

In a filing Friday, Prade's attorneys urged Croce to order the new trial. Doing so "requires not the slightest bit of deliberation or fact finding," Prade's attorneys said.

In her own filing Friday, Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh asked the judge to deny a new trial.

Since "we now know that Prade's new DNA evidence simply does not exculpate him in any rational way, there is no reason at all to permit him to take that meaningless and irrelevant evidence to a jury," the prosecutor said.

Croce's ultimate ruling could be appealed.