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Prosecutors In Mike Peterson Trial Seen As 'Fire & Ice' Combination

Posted May 28, 2003
Updated December 9, 2006

— The prosecution team in the Mike Peterson case is described by some in the courthouse as fire and ice.

District Attorney Jim Hardin is the "ice" in the combination. He has been Durham's district attorney since 1994. The Duke graduate and Durham native only tries one to two cases a year, but he scored convictions in many cases -- most recently, the Timothy Blackwell case. The even-tempered district attorney has the respect of many of the lawyers he takes on in court.

"Whether the case is going well for him [or] whether it's going badly, the jury is not going to know," defense attorney Ken Lockner said.

"It's as if you're winning all the time. I call it the poker face," defense attorney Butch Williams said.

"He's got the great straight face. He's calm. He doesn't get his feathers ruffled," Lockner said.

Assistant District Attorney Freda Black, the "fire" of the pair, is the color in the courtroom, and she said she has a flare for the dramatic.

"Sometimes I refer to litigators as actors and actresses. It's sort of legal acting," she said.

"Watch her face and you'll know how it's going for her," Lockner said.

The Campbell University law school graduate has been trying cases in Durham for 12 years. Courtroom observers said Black gives it her all and has a reputation for having an uncanny ability of knowing when to go for the jugular.

"She's going to fight you every step of the way," Williams said. "What I call the X factor is Freda who can get as cantankerous as [Peterson's defense attorney David Rudolf."

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