Cline's motions could stall trial

December 4, 2011 

When court convenes in Durham on Monday, it's anybody's guess what will happen.

A five- to 10-day hearing on the murder conviction of Durham author Michael Peterson had been on the calendar for months. But District Attorney Tracey Cline upended that long-standing event just a few days ago when she launched an unprecedented fusillade against Durham's top trial judge.

Cline has filed motions in three cases, accusing Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson of "moral turpitude, dishonesty and corruption" and alleging that the judge has led a conspiracy to destroy her.

Cline has asked that Hudson be removed from these cases, and that request has jumped to the front of the line.

On Monday at 10 a.m., Superior Court Judge Carl Fox of Orange County is scheduled to hear Cline's three motions.

The first will be Cline's motion in the Peterson case. Peterson's lawyer, David Rudolf of Charlotte, has said he will vigorously oppose any attempt to remove Hudson or delay the case. Cline had no involvement in the case, Rudolf said, and the sole issue is the competence and honesty of an expert witness in the case.

It's unclear how long this argument will take and whether Cline will attempt to put witnesses on the stand to support her case.

If Fox denies the motion and allows Hudson to remain on the case, there will probably be a brief recess and then Hudson will take the bench to hear any other motions in the Peterson case, according to Durham's trial court administrator.

Cline is likely to ask for a continuance so that the state Attorney General's office can take the over the state's defense of the Peterson verdict. Rudolf said he will oppose any continuance and argue that the date has been set for five months. In addition, Rudolf will bring in witnesses and experts from out of state and around North Carolina.

At this point the number of possibilities expands. Hudson could grant a short continuance so Fox could hear the motions in the other two cases. He could grant a continuance so the Attorney General's office can take over the case. He could deny a continuance and order the Peterson hearing to start.

Or something else could happen.

Staff writer Joseph Neff

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