Local News

Hardin: 'We're Going to Learn and Move Forward'

Posted June 21, 2007 10:07 a.m. EDT
Updated June 21, 2007 7:58 p.m. EDT

— Durham County's interim district attorney said Thursday afternoon that he will evaluate the office, its staff and its procedures, but that his main goal is to restore integrity.

"I made it very plain and very clear (to the office's staff) that every decision we make is essentially going to be based on one thing: Do the right thing for the right reason, do it in an ethical way and a legal and efficient way," Hardin said. "We're going to do that from start to finish."

A familiar face in Durham, Hardin, 50, served as Durham County's top prosecutor for 11 years before being appointed to a Superior Court judgeship in April 2005. He resigned from that post, at the request of Gov. Mike Easley, to replace former head prosecutor Mike Nifong, who was disbarred on Saturday and suspended Tuesday.

"Y'all have been reporting for a year about the dysfunction of this office," Hardin told reporters. "I'm going to do my best to assess that for him (Easley) and report back."

Nifong said Monday he would resign July 13, but Durham Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson issued a suspension order the next day, saying that having Nifong remain in office could cause problems with court cases.

Hardin refused to speak about Nifong and the Duke lacrosse case.

"What is in the past is in the past," Hardin said. "We're going to learn from this and move forward in representing the people of Durham County in an ethical and legal way in everything we do."

Hudson swore in Hardin about 9:30 a.m. Thursday at Asheville's Grove Park Inn, where the two were attending a Superior Court judges conference.

Upon administering the oath of office, Nifong was no longer the district attorney, Dick Ellis, spokesman for the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, said.

Defense attorney Mark Edwards said Hardin will bring a sense of normalcy back to the district attorney's office after more than a year of tremendous pressure caused by Nifong's prosecution and handling of the Duke lacrosse case.

Nifong's presence, Edwards said, also made it difficult for defense attorneys to do their jobs.

"He was the person who you had to go and talk to," Edwards said. "You would go as far as you could with the assistants, and then, if they had made their final plea offers and they told you that was the best they could do, you had to go talk to Mike, and it got very awkward toward the end."

Easley appointed Hardin on Wednesday to "take stock of the office, the personnel and its practices" until he can appoint a new district attorney to serve out the term, which ends in 2008.

That search for a replacement is expected to take nearly two months, at which time Hardin is expected to return to the bench.

Meanwhile Thursday, Nifong's wife, Cy Gurney, was seen at the Durham Courthouse, where she was cleaning out her husband's belongings. Earlier this week, Durham County Sheriff Worth Hill took Nifong's keys and his access card to the building when Hill served Nifong at his home with Hudson's suspension order.