Durham DA blasts judge in filing

November 18, 2011 3:13:28 PM PST
A scheduled hearing in the case of a man accused of carrying a dead woman's skeletal remains around with him in a backpack was cancelled Friday after Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline claimed the judge overseeing the case has a conflict of interest in a blistering filing.

Click here to read Cline's filing (.pdf)

Back in August, Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson dismissed the case against Michael Dorman, 33. He was charged with murder in the death of 31-year-old Lakeia Boxley - who disappeared from her Durham apartment in March 2008.

Dorman's case was tossed out when Judge Hudson found his alleged victim's skeletal remains were returned to her family and then cremated at the state's expense before his attorneys were able to independently test the remains.

In his 69-page court order, Hudson served up some harsh words for Cline, the medical examiner's office, and the police department. He accused Cline's office of "flagrantly violating" Dorman's constitutional rights by destroying critical evidence and allowing inaccurate testimony during hearings focused on his case.

Dorman has yet to go free. The hearing Friday was to determine if he should be released or if he's a danger to himself or others.

The Dorman case is not the first time Hudson has been critical of Cline's office. In March, Hudson wrote that prosecutors intentionally withheld evidence that would have helped Derrick M. Allen - a Durham man who spent more than 12 years in prison after pleading guilty under pressure from family and lawyers to avoid the death penalty in the death of a 2-year-old girl.

Click here to read more about that story

Now, DA Cline is firing back. In a highly unusual filing, she accuses Judge Hudson of corruption and asks that he be barred from hearing criminal cases in Durham County in a complaint to the Judicial Standards Commission.

She claims her refusal to dismiss the charges in the Allen case "ignited a purposeful pattern of abuse of discretion and intentional misconduct" by Hudson.

She further claims Hudson deliberately worked to create "media mayhem" in "attempts to ruin reputations." She accuses him of "moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption."

She goes on to say, "This extreme abuse of discretion and power destroys the integrity of the entire criminal justice system and must be controlled and restrained from this purposeful poisoning of the court system."

ABC11 was not able to reach Cline Friday for comment. Hudson said he has confidence in the Judicial Standards Commission.

Legal experts said Friday the courthouse spat is astounding.

"This is as an extreme of a reaction by rulings of a court that I've ever seen, particularly because it's so personal. The basis for it appears to be rulings that can be reviewed on appeal and if the judge got it wrong, they can be reversed," offered Duke law professor James Coleman.

"There probably a lot of lawyers who had thoughts like this about judges, but I've never seen one actually put it in a pleading and filing it," Coleman continued.

Few around the Durham Co. Courthouse wanted to speak on the record Friday, but Durham County Chief Public Defender Lawrence Campbell called the controversy the saddest day of his legal career.

Professor Coleman said, by law, complaints to the Judicial Standards Commission are supposed to be kept secret by both parties. So did Cline break the rules by revealing she's filed a complaint?

"I would be surprised if they would actually enforce the rule against a person who then actually talks about it," said Coleman.

Cline apparently isn't backing down. She filed another document Friday asking Hudson to step down from another case.

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