Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cline Vs. Hudson: Better than CSI

Sorry folks, this is not CSI Durham. So don’t expect cases being solved after examining a bug under a microscope to determine the time of death or decoding DNA from a flake of dandruff. We simply lack the technology used to solve crimes like those popular television shows.

We do have a system that forces local law enforcement to send evidence to a state lab to get stacked on the bottom of evidence coming from departments across the state. It’s a system bond to blunder. Evidence gets lost, it takes far too long to process and local law enforcement has no control over how the evidence is handled.

The SBI forensic lab is in the center of discussions involving the handling of a number of high profile cases in Durham County. Tracey Cline, Durham’s district attorney, was slammed in a two part series in the News & Observer for the way she handles evidence. J. Andrew Curliss, staff writer for the N&O, made a compelling case of prosecutor misconduct in a number of cases handled by Cline.

In the case of David Yearwood, SBI forensic test showed no fluid, no finger prints and no DNA that connected Yearwood to the rape of his 12-year-old neighbor. Cline claimed those tests were inconclusive or that he failed to ejaculate. The case is under review, but, according to the N&O article, officials have not been able to find the evidence.

On yesterday, an SBI agent was questioned in connection to his testimony in the Michael Peterson murder case. Peterson, a Durham novelist, former columnist for the Herald-Sun and candidate for Mayor, was found guilty of the murder of his wife, Kathleen Peterson, in 2001. Duane Deaver, an SBI agent, was labeled as having a strong pro-prosecution bias at yesterday’s hearing.

Deaver testified in Peterson’s 2003 trial. He had analyzed bloodstains and testified that it was his judgment that Kathleen Peterson was murdered by her husband. The former director of Connecticut’s Forensic lab testified that he was troubled by documents in Deaver’s personnel file indicating a pro prosecution leaning.

"If an individual has a strong prosecution bias, they can't be objective, they have a horse in the race," said Timothy Palmbach. "The expert coming into a courtroom shouldn't care about the results, whether it's guilt or innocence."

Palmbach also testified that Deaver’s work in the case failed to apply the basic rules governing high school science. He said Deaver’s didn’t document his work, failed to explain his methodology and didn’t test every possible and competing hypothesis. He noted that Deaver failed to conduct an experiment to test the possibility that the bloodstream pattern could have come from an accidental fall.

Earlier in the week, Carl Fox, Superior Court Judge, ruled that Orlando Hudson could preside over the hearing. Cline has claimed that Hudson, who is Durham’s top judge, has directed a conspiracy to punish her for failing to dismiss a murder case.

“Judge Hudson has been a judge for 20 years and these two cases aren’t a blip on the screen,” Fox said in court. “He’s handled thousands and thousands of cases…this is dismissed.”

Cline had filed three motions in the cases of Peterson, Yearwood and Michael Dorman. Dorman’s murder charge was thrown out by Hudson earlier this year. Cline withdrew her motion on the Dorman case after Fox noted it is currently in the NC Court of Appeals.

Now Hudson, who allowed the testimony of Deaver’s in the original trial, has to determine if he would have allowed him to serve as an expert witness if he had the information presented at the recent hearing.

Isn’t this better than TV? The spat between Hudson and Cline exposes the intriguing management of the judicial process. For one, the evidence isn’t always evidence. For another, the SBI Lab can’t be trusted as a tool to uncover the truth “beyond reasonable doubt.” Then there’s that sticky question of personal bull shit

This lunacy between Cline and Hudson goes deeper, at least it seems that way, than what is happening in that court of law. Cline’s attempt to remove Hudson from those three cases appears to be about a personal beef between two powerful people who hold the lives of others in their hands. She claims he is out to punish her. Fox ruled a lack of evidence to substantiate her claim. Can someone say stick up for your brother?

There is a missing piece to this puzzle. Who sent the tip to the News & Observer? Who leaked the information that landed Cline on the front page in a series of articles that revealed her management of the DA office? Could it be that Cline thinks Hudson is behind this hack job? If he is, and I’m not saying he’s guilty, doesn’t that give credence to her claim that ole dude is out to get her?

No, this is not CSI Durham. This is better than prime time TV.

Tune in for the next episode.

1 comment:

  1. It is amazing how our legal systems fail us as individuals. People may not be good, or they may use drugs, or sell, or whatever.....BUT the truth is the prosecuting persons we have are the biggest criminals of all. They do all sorts of underhanded and criminal acts everyday and never go punished. When will this stop. I hope that this woman gets what is coming to her and all the persons she did wrong will be set free. I so don't understand how you sleep at nigh, may GOD have mercy on you.