[Update, Tuesday, 2.31pm: Joe Neff reports that proceedings were adjourned because of an apparent bomb threat, but not before DA Cline offered a "dog-at-my-homework" excuse in the Peterson hearing:
Cline also said she was unprepared and had not read(!!) 800 pages of evidence given to her after Thanksgiving . . .
“I am here to say my sister still has rights, and there is no way you can have this district attorney represent my sister,” said Candace Zamperini, (Kathleen Peterson’s sister). “They are not prepared, they haven’t read the documents…..I will tell you, this district attorney’s office is not the district attorney’s office of Jim Hardin, where I got good representation.”
Cline does not appear to have given a reason why she didn't do her job and read the relevant documents; she seemingly assumed that, at worst, Judge Hudson would allow her to delay proceedings by removing herself from the case, and was caught unprepared when the judge refused her demand.]
[Update, Tuesday, 9.28am: Joe Neff's article in today's N&O is worth reading in full, if only for the sheer entertainment value. It ranges from the bizarre (the attendance of a figure who has argued that an owl(!), rather than Michael Peterson, killed Peterson's wife) to the ridiculous:
Fox patiently listened as Cline discussed more than a dozen cases from state appellate courts that she said supported her request. At one point, Cline mentioned a case that she hadn't read yet and asked the judge for time to read it. Fox said yes.
The packed courtroom sat in silence while Cline sat alone at her table, flipping through documents.
After 14 minutes, Fox broke the silence: "Are you still reading the case?"
Cline said she hadn't located the correct citation.
Bill Thomas, appropriately, summarized: "It was remarkable that she offered no evidence in support of these extraordinary allegations."]
[Update, Monday, 6.42pm: Joe Neff reports that Judge Fox dismissed all of Cline's filings, dismissing her reasoning as "woefully inadequate."
Here's how Neff described the courtroom scene: "Cline then gave a rambling half hour speech that roughly tracked her court filings and made no mention of Peterson: Hudson was retaliating against her because she failed to dismiss a murder charge in the case of Derrick Allen."]
[Update, Monday, 12.29pm: Reporting from the courtroom, Joe Neff brings word that Judge Fox is . . . skeptical . . . of Cline's bizarre claims:
“There’s a lot of verbiage in here that has nothing to do with anything,” Fox said of Cline’s 286-page motion and foot tall stack of exhibits. “The affidavits are not sufficient.”]
There were a couple of occasions in the lacrosse case in which Mike Nifong all but baited the State Bar to file prompt ethics charges against him. The first came just before Election Day, when the embattled candidate traveled to NCCU and all but turned the American theory of justice on its head, asserting, “If a case is of such significance that people in the community are divided or up in arms over the existence of that case, then that in and of itself [emphasis added] is an indication that a case needs to be tried.” The second coincided with the week of the Meehan hearing, during which Nifong offered myriad (often mutually contradictory) explanations as to why he hadn’t reported all the DNA test results. The first set of ethics charges against Nifong arrived a few days later.
Based on an article in today’s N&O by Andrew Curliss, Durham is rapidly moving toward seeing its second DA in less than a decade removed for ethical improprieties. Curliss’s piece traces Cline’s by-now-standard pattern of fabrications, but it also shows that the county’s “minister of justice” has been reduced to lying about seemingly trivial matters.
In recent months, Cline expanded her network of untruths from Judge Hudson’s courtroom to that of her (and Nifong’s) former boss, Judge Hardin. The topic of Cline’s false filings: prison visitation records. In her filings to Hardin, Cline (falsely) claimed that the two prisoners (Keith Kidwell and Angel Richardson) had filed motions to which she needed to respond. Yet neither man had filed such a motion, nor had their attorneys intended to do so.
So why did Cline mislead the court; and why would she have any interest in such a seemingly obscure matter as prison visitation records? Cline refused to speak to the N&O, nor did she respond to an e-mail from me requesting comment. But it appears as if she was not only lying to a judge but abusing the powers of her office either (1) to dig for material to help save her law license in any ethics proceedings against her; or (2) as part of her futile attempt to compile “evidence” substantiating her wild claims of an anti-Cline “conspiracy” between Judge Hudson, defense attorneys, and the N&O.
Cline had no good reason for desiring the information: the prison department spokesperson Curliss, "Why the DA's office is interested in whether Kidwell is seeing his pre-approved visitors, I have no earthly idea. It's our own internal policy, so it's ours to police."
Jim Coleman told the N&O that the State Bar will be concerned about "not only whether she is misrepresenting and abusing the judicial process, but also whether she is filing patently false allegations in pleadings and taking advantage of the immunity that she has (as a prosecutor). ... She really is undermining the integrity of her office." Coleman also predicted that Cline could face a contempt-of-court hearing from Hardin.
Curliss’ latest exposé follows on Cline’s moves late last week regarding a hearing tomorrow in the latest appeal filed by Michael Peterson, the former Durham mayoral candidate convicted of killing his wife. (Judge Hudson was scheduled to preside over the hearing.) Cline wants Hudson off the case, and the H-S reported Friday that Cline has subpoenaed as many as 53(!) people to appear at the hearing. As a fallback, she’s requested that the Attorney General’s office step in for her if Hudson isn’t removed. The AG’s office has said it will accept Cline’s request—but only if it can obtain a continuance to allow its attorneys to get up to speed on the case.
The AG’s position is a reasonable one, but the fact that a long-scheduled hearing might have to be delayed because of Cline’s increasingly unhinged behavior gives a sense of why the Bar needs to intervene sooner rather than later.
For a sense of how untenable Cline’s position has become, even the local legal academy’s most prominent apologist for prosecutorial misconduct, Irving Joyner, has deemed the DA’s conduct “strange” and noted that her filings were apparent “misrepresentations to a court.”
When an unethical Durham prosecutor has lost Irving Joyner, it would seem there are few local legal allies left.