Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that a judge erred when he dismissed charges against a Mebane man found carrying a woman's remains in his backpack.
Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson dismissed the charge against Michael Dorman in August 2011 amid a simmering feud with then-District Attorney Tracey Cline.
Hudson ruled that Cline conspired with police and state agents to destroy key evidence – the remains of 31-year-old Lakiea Lacole Boxley – depriving Dorman of his right to a fair trial.
The state Court of Appeals disagreed Tuesday and ruled that Dorman should stand trial.
Dorman, 34, was arrested in July 2010 after one of his friends told authorities that Dorman admitted to killing a prostitute and had asked him to help dispose of her remains, which he had in a backpack.
An autopsy determined that Boxley, who had been missing since March 2008, might have been shot in the head. Dorman told investigators that he only found the remains and planned to use them for his sexual gratification.
Boxley's family cremated her remains shortly after Dorman was indicted, a move that prevented the defense from conducting its own tests.
Allowing the remains to be cremated never gave Dorman the opportunity to back up that claim, his attorney, Ann Peterson, told the three-judge panel last September.
The medical examiner is required under state law to release remains to the next of kin after all needed tests are completed, according to Special Deputy Attorney General Robert Montgomery.
Despite the dismissal in 2011, Dorman remained in custody under a $150,000 bond until the appeal was resolved.
Cline's attorney, Hudson speak out
Tuesday's appeals court ruling upholds the view of Cline, who lost her job after publicly criticizing Hudson's decisions dismissing charges against Dorman and Derrick Allen, who had been convicted of killing a 2-year-old girl.
Cline is now appealing a separate judge's decision removing her from her elected position for bringing her office into disrepute.
In a statement emailed to WRAL News on Tuesday, Cline's attorney, Patrick Mincey, said the Court of Appeals ruling "appears to be another instance which helps to define a cascading series of events and the underlying circumstances in which Ms. Cline so famously spoke out."
Hudson also commented Tuesday and said Cline "was removed from office for her actions, not mine."
"She doesn't concern me. I was just re-elected, and I'll still be here," Hudson said.
As for the Court of Appeals ruling, Hudson said the court determined his decisions were premature, not necessarily wrong, because Dorman hadn't faced trial yet.