Durham, N.C. — The latest blow to Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline came in the form of an affidavit filed Tuesday by a fellow lawyer.
In eight pages of examples, Kerry Sutton lays out why she thinks Cline has "brought the office of the Durham County District Attorney and the entire Durham County justice system into disrepute."
The filing is the first step required by law to remove Cline from office.
Sutton, a defense attorney, specifically cites Cline's actions in cases against Michael Peterson, who was recently granted a new trial on charges he killed his wife in 2001, and Clint Pollard, a man accused of molesting a boy whom Sutton is defending.
Cline has repeatedly accused Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson of bias against her and has asked to have him barred from handling criminal cases in Durham County. Two other Superior Court judges have deemed Cline's complaints to be groundless.
Hudson, as the senior judge in the county, would be the first to consider Sutton's claims against Cline.
State law allows for the removal of a district attorney under seven conditions:
- Mental or physical incapacity interfering with the performance of his duties which is, or is likely to become, permanent;
- Willful misconduct in office;
- Willful and persistent failure to perform his duties;
- Habitual intemperance;
- Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude;
- Conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the office into disrepute; or
- Knowingly authorizing or permitting an assistant district attorney to commit any act constituting grounds for removal, as defined in subdivisions (1) through (6).
In her affidavit, Sutton claims Cline is guilty of both habitual intemperance and prejudicial conduct. Should Hudson, or another judge he would assign, call a hearing on the allegations, Sutton would serve as a witness against Cline.
Another Durham attorney, Scott Holmes, told WRAL News last week that he has heard from colleagues who favor Cline's ouster.
In a statement to WRAL News Wednesday, Cline said she would continue to fight for truth and justice in Durham County.
"Two murder cases were dismissed in less than a year. There should be nothing more important to the fair administration of justice than the Truth. The Truth must be protected from political pressures and the promises of the powerful," she wrote.
"Truth is not complicated it is real simple. Truth understands that every life is important, even the young life of a (2-year-old) baby and the battered life of a 24-year-old woman enslaved by (addiction). Human
life should never be a pawn for political gain or loss," she continued.
"The district attorney must not bend or bargain for the power to possess the elected office. In doing so the truth is lost and justice can only die. As for me it is simple seeking truth and justice is what must
be done, and yes at all costs," she wrote.
"To go against the (status) quo and seek justice at times is not popular. To demand that all people are treated fairly is not favored. Not even from the prosecutor," she said in conclusion. "It is truth telling time. And Durham County needs to know the truth and I will continue to fight for that truth. Justice for all people not just some but all is worth the fight."