Former Akron Police Captain Douglas Prade has won another round of court hearings on DNA evidence in his bid for a new trial in the 1997 shooting death of his ex-wife.
It marks the second time in three years that an evidentiary hearing will be held to examine bite-mark evidence on Dr. Margo Prade’s lab coat.
The notorious case has received nationwide investigative television news coverage since the former captain’s conviction in his 1998 Summit County trial.
In a court order released Thursday, Common Pleas Judge Christine Croce, scheduled the new hearing date Nov. 4 at 1 p.m.
If more time is needed for both sides to argue for and against the defense motion for a new trial, Croce set aside the rest of the week to conclude the hearings.
She stated in her order that she will make a decision afterward, but did not specify when.
Prade, 69, remains in a state penitentiary after an appellate court overturned a lower court’s 2013 order freeing him from prison after he had served nearly 15 years for the crime.
That order, by now-retired Judge Judy Hunter, was based on advanced DNA testing that excluded Prade from crucial crime-scene evidence — a bite mark under a lab coat worn by Dr. Prade on the morning of the slaying.
Both sides always have agreed there was a struggle inside Dr. Prade’s minivan and that the killer bit her, leaving an impression on the upper-left arm through her lab coat and blouse.
In November 2012, Hunter held the first set of hearings on what was then the latest test results of the bite-mark DNA. All of the experts who testified in those hearings agreed that Prade was excluded, and Hunter issued her findings of actual innocence the following January.
The case has reached this point because Hunter included a conditional order in her findings, granting Prade a new trial if her decision were to be overturned.
County prosecutors appealed Hunter’s decision, arguing that her findings were meaningless because the lab coat most likely was contaminated over time, and Akron’s 9th District appeals court strongly supported the government’s argument.
The 9th District also found other substantial evidence of Prade’s guilt, noting that he stalked her and threatened her as she was attempting to start a new life after their divorce.
Prade’s jury trial ended in his conviction for aggravated murder, multiple counts of wiretapping and other crimes.