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State: Human remains not evidence in Durham bones case

Posted September 26, 2012
Updated September 27, 2012

— An attorney for the state argued Thursday that human remains aren't evidence that need to be preserved for trial, so a murder charge should be reinstated against a Mebane man found carrying a woman's remains in his backpack.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson dismissed the charge against Michael Dorman last year amid a simmering feud with then-District Attorney Tracey Cline. He ruled that Cline conspired with police and state agents to destroy key evidence – the remains of 31-year-old Lakiea Lacole Boxley – depriving Dorman of his right to a fair trial.

Boxley's family cremated her remains shortly after Dorman was indicted, a move that prevented the defense from conducting its own tests.

State attorneys appealed his decision, saying Hudson abused his discretion, and the North Carolina Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case Thursday.

"Evidence is generated from the remains. The body itself is not evidence," Special Deputy Attorney General Robert Montgomery said.

Appellate Judge Sam Ervin IV questioned that argument, saying that a body is needed to establish some facts in a criminal case.

"It seems to me that human remains have to be evidence in some form, in some cases at least," Ervin said.

Appellate Judge Robert N. Hunter Jr. noted that Dorman was initially charged with possession of human remains.

"Are you saying, under that charge, the remains would not be evidence?" Hunter asked.

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. An autopsy determined that Boxley, who had been missing since March 2008, might have been shot in the head.

Michael Dorman Durham backpack bones case goes before NC appeals court

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Dorman told investigators that he only found the remains and planned to use them for his sexual gratification.

Allowing the remains to be cremated never gave Dorman the opportunity to back up that claim, his attorney, Ann Peterson, told the three-judge panel.

"If those are random bones, if those are bones of other people, we have absolutely no way of knowing because they're destroyed," Peterson argued.

She said she wasn't arguing that Boxley's family wasn't entitled to her remains; she only questions the timing of the release. The medical examiner held the remains for more than a month and then released them five days after Dorman's initial attorney filed a motion to preserve all evidence in the case, she said.

"The judge can infer some bad faith there," she said.

Montgomery said the medical examiner is required under state law to release remains to the next of kin after all needed tests are completed.

Despite the dismissal, Dorman remains in custody under a $150,000 bond until the appeal is resolved.


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  • YippiYiyoKiYay Sep 28, 2012

    It is people like you that cause me to have no use whatever for the jury trial system. No twelve Yahoos are ever going to sit in judgment of me.
    piene2.....Still the bigot.

  • YippiYiyoKiYay Sep 28, 2012

    Dorman told investigators that he only found the remains and planned to use them for his sexual gratification........On this statement alone these legal fools ought to know this weirdo never needs to be let loose. Hudson is a nut, but this guy's certifiable! Look at him! There's a genetic war going on inside this...this...whatever it is.

  • uncw05 Sep 28, 2012

    ndadszucs- they didn't know at the time the evidence was destroyed that that would be the end result.

  • piene2 Sep 27, 2012

    "This guy sounds sick whether he killed her or not. We should just get rid of these people, there is no helping them.

    Perhaps some day someone will say the same about you. After all, guilt or innocence means nothing, does it? It is people like you that cause me to have no use whatever for the jury trial system. My blood runs cold imagining one such as you serving on a jury. If, in my case, it ever came to a trial I would exercise my right to a bench trial. No twelve Yahoos are ever going to sit in judgment of me.

  • faycop4ncstate Sep 27, 2012

    If you listen to the oral arguments and the responses by the judges you can clearly see that they are going to rule for the state. It was an erroneous decision made by a judge who constantly misinterprets the laws of this Great State. The defendant’s constitutional rights do not trump the quasi property rights of the victim’s family to possession of body remains. The defendant has the right to examine the medical report created by the ME. Cremation did not deprive the defendant of his ability to have experts examine the medical reports created by the ME and challenge the findings. We don’t bring dead bodies or bones into court to be admitted into evidence. The key point as pointed out by the court of appeals is that the defendant has to prove prejudice and one of the court of appeals judges called Hudson’s decision premature. Reversed and remanded is coming, to hold otherwise would establish a dangerous precedent that defies common sense.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Sep 27, 2012

    What a shame! Too bad Cline can't be charged as an accessory to a crime. Problem is, that a crime was actually committed can't now be determined.

    Praying for those who loved the lady.

  • JohnnyMcRonny Sep 27, 2012

    There are these two little words that go back 800 years and are enshrined in the US Constitution:

    habeas corpus

    You cannot be tried without evidence. Period. If the DA destroyed it then, like it or not, the accused cannot be tried and, consequently, must be released.

    It's the way our legal system works. Why do so many not get that?

  • wnt2rant Sep 27, 2012

    This guy sounds sick whether he killed her or not. We should just get rid of these people, there is no helping them.

  • jhk0704 Sep 27, 2012

    Fact is the DA in this case mishandle the case and the judge made a bad ruling (since he didn't like her and was trying to embrass her) that resulted in this going to appeals. All this is costing tax dollars and draining our justice system of resources

    I think the judge made the correct ruling. I think the guy is guilty as sin....but you cannot take this case to trial when the defense asked 5 days prior to have them preserved and Cline knew this and she allowed them to be destroyed anyway. Judge Hudson did the right thing. The case had to be thrown out the remains were a major piece of evidence and what Cline did was a major mistake. I would hope that all judges would make that decision and hold prosecuting attorneys accountable for making a major mistake. The person who screwed up here is Hudson. We all may hate his decision but it was the right one. Ther person who messed this up was Nifong's protege Cline. The whole apple doesnt fall far from the tree thing.....

  • jhk0704 Sep 27, 2012

    Why would any DA want to keep someone's remains indefinitely on the off chance some defense atty wants them?? Can you imagine what that will do to a family who's loved one has been missing for a while? The defense is using this as a reason for dismissal not as a legit defense. They can, and probably already do, have access to the ME's info. Hudson messed up on this one.

    NO HE DIDNT. The law gives the defense the right to have the remains analyzed by their own expert not the ME who works for the State. And on top of that the defense attorney asked 5 DAYS BEFORE cline released them to have them kept available to him for examination. Hudson didnt mess up Cline did. And a autopsy is to determine the cause of death it does not guarantee a DNA test on the remains