Local News

Durham DA's effort to remove judge from murder appeal denied

Posted December 5, 2011

— A Superior Court judge on Monday rejected an attempt by Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline to remove another judge from a high-profile murder appeal.

Cline filed motions last month requesting that Judge Orlando Hudson not be allowed to preside over at least three cases, including a hearing set for this week as to whether novelist and one-time Durham mayoral candidate Mike Peterson should be granted a new murder trial.

Cline alleges that Hudson is biased against her after he publicly criticized her handling of several cases, including two that led to murder charges being dropped.

Judge Carl Fox said none of the evidence Cline presented demonstrated a need for Hudson to be removed from Peterson's case.

"There is a lot of verbiage in here that has nothing to do with anything,” Fox said. "These are very serious allegations. In a motion to recuse a judge, there has to be something in these affidavits to indicate that he is biased in this case."

Cline said Hudson's actions in several other cases show "a constant pattern" of prejudice.

"I would not be standing here in the courtroom arguing to you, but for the fact that I think that it’s important for me to not be afraid to do what is right,” she told Fox.

The judge said Cline should pursue her complaint against Hudson with the state Commission on Judicial Standards, not in court.

Peterson's attorney, David Rudolf, called the hearing "a little bit surreal."

Peterson, 68, was convicted in 2003 of first-degree murder in the Dec. 9, 2001, death of his wife, Kathleen. She was found dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in the couple's upscale Durham home.

His latest request for a new trial involves claims that a former State Bureau of Investigation agent who testified at his trial lied or misled jurors about blood evidence found in the home.

Mike Peterson in court Feud between judge, Durham DA goes to court

Hudson presided over Peterson's nearly three-month murder trial, and Rudolf contends he is best suited to determine whether the agent's testimony is valid.

"There is not one iota of evidence – and I defy Ms. Cline to come up with one iota of evidence – that Judge Hudson is prejudiced against the state in Michael Peterson’s case,” Rudolf said.

Cline has asked the the North Carolina Attorney General assume responsibility for Peterson's case, and the agency has agreed to do so only if it is delayed so state attorneys can prepare. Hudson is expected to hear the appeal Tuesday, but there was no word on whether he would grant a delay.

Cline dropped her attempt to remove Hudson from two other cases, although she said she might pursue one again later.

Hudson in August dismissed a murder charge against Michael Dorman, who was arrested last year with a woman's remains in his backpack. The judge ruled that Cline's office helped get the remains cremated before Dorman's attorney could test them independently.

Dorman's attorney is seeking his release, after Hudson ordered him held for a psychiatric evaluation.

Cline said she wants to get Hudson's correspondence in a child molestation case involving David Yearwood before deciding whether to request the judge's removal from the case. Fox is expected to hold a hearing on the matter Wednesday.


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  • EverythingTicksMeOff Dec 6, 2011

    All the articles I see here on WRAL say that Nifong announced that he WOULD resign the day before he was disbarred. He did not resign at that time, though.

  • goodgod Dec 6, 2011

    kikinc - You are wrong again. Perhaps you possibly remember that he was disbarred in June, yet offered to resign in July. They had to do everything but take his key away to get him out, then they passed laws to ensure that DAs don't get to choose when they quit. Sleep well

  • meldenis Dec 5, 2011

    Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline needs to get her ducks in a row and stop whining. Judges are supposed to make sure the law is followed so that people can get an ethical fair hearing. They both need to do their jobs. I am glad Judge Orlando Hudson is doing his job.

  • bombayrunner Dec 5, 2011

    She wont stop until the CNN trucks are sitting outside.

  • kikinc Dec 5, 2011

    And if I remember correctly, although the Durham courts were considering ousting Nifong, he submitted a second resignation letter, this one effective immediately, so Judge Hudson threw out the ouster petition, letting Nifong completely resign.

  • kikinc Dec 5, 2011

    goodgod-How am I wrong? In mid June, he announced his resignation, effective in July. His disbarment was announced the next day, and he was subsequently suspended since he was unable to practice law. He did toss in the towel first.

  • westernwake1 Dec 5, 2011

    "I hope someone will cover the misconduct of the Wake County DA's next." - goldbug

    Can you provide specific examples of cases that should be reviewed to evaluate the Wake DA's conduct?

  • twc Dec 5, 2011

    I wonder how many innocent people are serving time because of her lack of ethics?

  • lynne0312 Dec 5, 2011

    I hope someone will cover the misconduct of the Wake County DA's next.

  • goodgod Dec 5, 2011

    Nifong resigned the day before he was disbarred, I believe, so yes, in all actuality, he did quit

    You are also wrong