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Judge To Keep Peterson Trial On Track, Under Control

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DURHAM, N.C. — Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson assigned himself to the Mike Peterson murder case just a few months after Peterson was arrested. With jury selection under way, it's up to Hudson to make sure the trial stays on course.

For the last year and a half, Hudson has been trying to keep the case from becoming a circus, saying he's "very concerned" about statements made in the press.

The North Carolina native and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate has made a name for himself in Durham. He's been on the bench since 1984, and he was elected to Superior Court in 1990.

"Lawyers have respect for him," said local attorney Karen Bethea-Shields.

Hudson is perhaps best known throughout the courthouse for his temperament.

"Laid back," Bethea-Shields said. "Very calm, very disciplined.

"I don't agree with him on all his decisions. But he's easy to talk to, and he knows the law."

As the senior Superior Court judge, Hudson presides over most of the big cases in Durham. He recently ruled in the Timothy Blackwell drunk-driving trial.

"I hope you never drive an automobile anywhere ever again in your life," he told Blackwell.

It's not unusual for Hudson's cases to draw a large audience; many lawyers come to learn from Hudson.

"In a lot of cases, you will see people sit in a courtroom just to watch trial because he's an insightful judge," said lawyer Phyllis Tranchese.

Public defender Bob Brown has tried a number of cases in front of Hudson.

"Sometimes, you think from his facial expression that he hasn't heard you," Brown said. "But then he'll repeat back what you said, and then, he'll tell you exactly what you meant."

Brown said the media spotlight in the Peterson case doesn't bother Hudson one bit.

"I don't think he feels the stress," Brown said. "He just enjoys what he does."

Superior Court judges serve eight-year terms. Hudson is in his second term and is up for re-election in 2006.

He'll be back at work Thursday as Peterson jury-selection interviews continue.


Julia Lewis, Reporter
Don Ingle, Photographer
Paul Ensslin, Web Editor

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