Local News

State criticizes judge for tossing Durham murder case

Posted June 1, 2012

— State attorneys say a Superior Court judge abused his discretion last year by dismissing a murder case against a man found to be carrying a woman's remains in his backpack.

Judge Orlando Hudson threw out the charges against Michael Dorman last August, ruling that Durham County prosecutors, police and state agents conspired to destroy key evidence, depriving Dorman of his right to a fair trial.

In appealing the dismissal, the state Attorney General's Office said many of Hudson's factual findings weren't supported by the evidence and that some "without any support, improperly and incorrectly impugn the professional reputations of prosecutors, Office of the (Chief) Medical Examiner, an associate medical examiner, police officers, the Durham Police Department and Victim Compensation Services."

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. 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 then-Durham County District Attorney Tracey 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.

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, preventing the defense from conducting its own tests on the remains.

The state's appeal, which was filed in late April, notes that there was no evidence that Cline acted in bad faith and encouraged Boxley's family to cremate her remains.

"Dismissing a murder charge is an abuse of discretion because it is not the result of a reasoned decision and because it was based on a misapprehension of law," the state concludes in its appeal.

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

Hudson's ruling in the case helped escalate a simmering feud between Cline and Hudson and prompted the prosecutor to file several motions accusing the judge of bias and asking him to be removed from all criminal cases in Durham County.

The motions later led to Cline being removed from office, and the North Carolina State Bar is now seeking to strip her of her law license.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • ConservativeVoter Jun 4, 2012

    It seems Cline wasn't so wrong on Hudson after all.

  • whoami Jun 1, 2012

    As before, Tracey could have spoken of her qualms with Hudson in a different manner. But I believe some of her claims hold water. Hudson has made questionable decisions for years, and has NEVER liked anyone to question his authority. His ruling on this case was plain out wrong. By his ruling, every murdered person in this country would have to sit around in a freezer somewhere while the slow wheels of justice turn. I would not want my loved one frozen in legal limbo. And what about appeals? Tracey did not dismiss this case on the basis of no body to examine. HUDSON did. She did her job, he FAILED. Where there is smoke, there is fire. Dig deeper on Hudson.

  • ladyblue Jun 1, 2012

    what a fine kettle of fish. wonder how many more cases will run into a brick wall due to Clines' behavior. what a sick sounding dude to be carrying parts around with him.

  • warbirdlover Jun 1, 2012

    If there was any question about the cause of death the remains should have not been released until it could be determined if she had been shot or not. I understand this dude is a weirdo, but if there is any doubt about cause of death how can he be charged with murderer?

  • caroexc Jun 1, 2012

    THATS EXACTLY WHAT TRACY SAID ----- sort of but close enough

  • Relic Jun 1, 2012

    What Cline said about this case and Hudson's decision was correct. It was her ongoing feud and very irrational behavior for an attorney (yeah, contradiction in terms)and especially a D.A. Now the State must move ahead with this appeal with the onus of Cline's hearing hanging over it. Cline's behavior did nothing to help the State's case in this matter and she is not a martyr.

  • dad6 Jun 1, 2012

    what a mess.....

  • samr Jun 1, 2012

    We will have to wait and see what the court of appeals says in the end. People shouldn't make too much of this yet. It is the same argument that the state used in the Peterson case --- that a state employee's work is sound even though that state employee has been dismissed for misconduct on the job.

  • dollibug Jun 1, 2012

    Sounds like to me that there is NO ONE who actually knows what is going on with the Judicial System....seems like NC is trying to make up their own laws about things as they go....it is a known fact that attorney can *twist and tweak* the laws and make it seem like what they are doing is within the law....when in fact, it is not......by a longgggggg shot....does anyone actually review anything that these people are doing these days....or are they allowed to do whatever they see fit to do?

    State Bar does not do anything until *after the fact* once it is done....it is done....and the state bar hardly does anything anyway....the JUDICIAL SYSTEM HAS BECOME A BIG JOKE....

  • christinebbd Jun 1, 2012

    I'm not a Cline supporter, but I do think there was a ring of truth in some of her complaints. At the time, I thought Hudson lost his mind when he threw out the murder case. Personally, I think Hudson needs to retire, or be replaced in the next election. There is simply too much going on behind the scenes in my opinion.