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Durham DA Faces Prospect Of Deployment

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DURHAM, N.C. — Jim Hardin has been Durham County's district attorney for 10 years. He's been in the Army Reserve for 15.

In just four months, Hardin is scheduled to prosecute one of the most highly publicized cases his office has seen: the Mike Peterson murder trial. Whether Hardin will be sitting at the prosecutor's table depends on what happens in the Middle East.

"I am prepared to do my duty," Hardin said of the prospect of being deployed for a possible war against Iraq. "I've had to reorganize how the Peterson case is being staffed."

Last year, Peterson's wife, Kathleen, was found dead at the bottom of the stairs in the couple's mansion. Since that time, Mike Peterson's lawyer has accused the District Attorney's Office of dragging its feet on the case.

"If I were called to active duty, and it went for an extended period of time, it might take a while to get people up to speed," Hardin said. "But I've already staffed it with two other lawyers, so, hopefully, it would not cause an inordinate delay."

Assistant District Attorney Freda Black is already co-counsel for the case and would remain so.

The last time Hardin was called to active duty was during the Persian Gulf conflict. Then, he was an assistant district attorney and was stationed at Fort Bragg.

"I came home almost every night," he said, "and had office hours on the weekend."

This time around, he could be sent to Charlotte or Fort Jackson, S.C.

Although he admits it's a challenge to juggle both careers, Hardin said it's worth it.

"I have an opportunity to be a lawyer for a client that protects this country," he said.

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