Local News

Judge rips DA, Durham police in dismissal of murder case

Posted November 15, 2011
Updated November 16, 2011

— In dismissing a murder charge against a Mebane man who carried human remains in his backpack, a Superior Court judge sharply criticized Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline, Durham police and state investigators.

Judge Orlando Hudson issued a 69-page ruling in Michael Dorman's case on Monday, almost three months after throwing out the murder case against him because key evidence had been destroyed.

Dorman, 33, was arrested in July 2010 after one of his friends told authorities that Dorman admitted to killing a prostitute and asked him to help dispose of her remains, which he had in a backpack. Dorman told investigators that he only found the remains and planned to use them for his sexual gratification.

The remains were identified as those of Lakiea Lacole Boxley, 31, who had been missing since March 2008. An autopsy determined that she might have been shot in the head.

Boxley's remains were released to her family in September 2010 – days after Dorman was indicted on a murder charge – and the state Victim's Compensation Fund paid for their cremation.

Hudson ruled that Cline delayed presenting Dorman's case to the grand jury long enough so that the remains could be cremated before a judge could order that evidence in the case be preserved. Cline then misled Dorman's attorney for months, the judge ruled, making him believe that the State Medical Examiner's Office still had a portion of the remains and that the rest had been buried.

Cline also dropped the initial charge filed against Dorman – concealing a body and failure to report a death – because that would have required her to preserve Boxley's remains, Hudson ruled.

The District Attorney's Office, the Durham Police Department and the Victim's Compensation Fund worked together to cremate Boxley's remains as quickly as possible after Dorman was indicted, Hudson ruled. The judge went so far as to create his own timeline of calls between the three agencies and court proceedings in the case.

"The state and its agents intentionally facilitated, assisted and enabled the permanent destruction of material and favorable evidence in Mr. Dorman's cases," the judge wrote in his ruling.

Dorman has been diagnosed with several mental disorders and has given conflicting stories in the case, which Hudson said made the remains the most critical evidence.

Because Dorman's attorney couldn't have independent tests run on the remains to confirm they belonged to Boxley and that she had been shot, Hudson said, prosecutors violated his right to examine all evidence against him.

Cline and officials with the Victim's Compensation Fund didn't respond Tuesday to requests for comment on the ruling, while Durham police declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the State Medical Examiner's Office, said state law requires the office to release remains to family members once the investigation into a cause of death is finished.

Despite the dismissal of the murder charge, which the state has appealed, Dorman remains in custody. Hudson had asked that he be monitored to ensure that he doesn't pose a threat to himself or others.

Defense attorney Lawrence Campbell said he will ask during a hearing scheduled for Friday afternoon that Dorman be released.

53 Comments

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  • dorma002 Nov 17, 3:59 p.m.

    I hope Friday they will at least place him in a mental institution that can help him and protect us the community.
    I have upgraded my security systems just in case and I am related through marriage.
    I hope they will keep an eye on him .His break in pattern is to steal women's underclothing

  • bill0 Nov 16, 12:25 p.m.

    For all those who are blaming the judge:

    What would you say if Ms Cline charged you with murder and said "I have really good evidence that this guy murdered a woman, but I burnt it all. You'll just have to take my word that he is guilty." Would anyone think that was a fair trial if it was their life on the line? I think not. If we want our own rights protected, then we need to be vigilant about protecting the rights of others.

  • leslie0694 Nov 16, 10:10 a.m.

    how do you let something like that slip through and now he is getting off scott free? it doesn't make any sense how something like this can slip through and go unpunished, its pretty obvious he had something to do with it or he obviously wouldn't have been toting around a back pack with a dismembered body.

  • mfarmer1 Nov 16, 9:45 a.m.

    Integrity:

    there are countries that still cut off ears, hands, feet, stoned, but they still rape, rob, kill etc... It has been going on for millions of years. It is not going to stop just because you make it unbearable. Then there are people who stand outside of prisons even though the guy\gal admitted to murdering someone they want to let them out of jail, and sometimes marry them when they are on death row. The people who are at these so called wall-street demonstrations are such people (not all but many). some of them are only there because there is a demonstration, or even free food. some are there because they see people in sheeps clothing, so they can kill, rape and rob them.

  • Mr. Middle of the Road Nov 16, 9:41 a.m.

    That guy needs to be in jail just for being so ugly. Its not right to let someone who looks like that run around free. I am with Ms. Cline on this.

  • coleenpayne Nov 16, 9:35 a.m.

    That is another case of our tax money at work...Way to go Durham County..as for Tracey Cline, she ranks right up there with the goof she replaced!

  • dcatz Nov 16, 9:29 a.m.

    The judge made the right decision. The comments here remind me of a rabid dog.

    Regardless of whether you think the guy is guilty he does have a right to access the evidence so as to prepare a defense. It's called due process. If we allowed the court of public opinion to dictate when someone is guilty, then we'd be putting a lot of innocent people away.

    In this case, there are questions concerning how the victim died. It would be different if it was an obvious murder such as a gunshot wound but in this case, all that remained was bones. He has a right to examine the evidence for himself.

    In this case, Tracy Cline, in the best tradition of Mike Nifong, acted sloppily in handling the case. The end result is that a *possibly* guilty man may go free but that is better than locking up an innocent man. Don't blame him or don't blame his lawyers for doing their job. Blame the DA for sloppy work.

  • 247 Nov 16, 9:28 a.m.

    The judge should of ruled differently, doesnt he have the power? I wish someone would take a stand and change the way our justice system worked. Its obvious to me that if we punish criminals in a way that would make their lives as unbearable as their victims' lives then maybe they would stop.

  • Wendellcatlover Nov 16, 9:06 a.m.

    This judge is always making controversial decisions. There was plenty of evidence here to prove to me that this man probably killed her - he had her remains in a backpack for God's sake!!! It would have been up to a jury to make the final determination, not Hudson. He needs to be removed from the bench.

  • hp277 Nov 16, 8:59 a.m.

    Tracey Cline is making Mike Nifong look good in comparison.

    Durham needs a new DA - one not associated with either of them.

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