Tuesday, February 21, 2012
It’s a done deal… Cline is out!
To Access the flog, click on the LINK below.
Tracey Cline, the Durham County district attorney, will shortly be relieved of her position. The handwriting has been spray-painted on the wall like sickening graffiti for many months. In September 2011, when The News & Observer came out with its three-part series titled “Twisted Truth,” it heralded the official beginning of its smear campaign against Ms. Cline; and anyone with any familiarity with North Carolina politics and law, especially as practiced in Durham, knew back then that her days in office were numbered. I was aware from what I read in the newspaper that Ms. Cline was in the media’s crosshairs long before the publication of their “Twisted Truth” series.
As staff investigative reporter Mandy Locke stated in her article in the Sunday, February 19, 2012 edition of the newspaper, Tracey Cline has uncommon zeal in prosecuting those charged with crimes… and for that reason, she will lose her publicly elected position by virtue of the decision of one man… a superior court judge from Franklin County, Robert H. Hobgood.
According to the Saturday, February 18, 2012 edition of The News & Observer, the hearing that is to hold court, on what I believe to be a pre-determined outcome, will begin on Monday, February 20, 2012… Presidents’ Day… a national holiday.
The removal affidavit process was initiated in mid-January 2012 by Durham Defense Attorney Kerry Sutton. She was critical of Cline because of Cline’s repeated attempts to keep Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson from hearing any of her criminal cases. Cline believes her attacks against Judge Hudson are a justified reflection of her passion for prosecuting the bad guys whereas her detractors, such as Attorney Sutton, feels Cline’s attacks against a sitting judge are detrimental to the judicial process and puts it in “disrepute.” In specific, Attorney Sutton has referred to some of Cline’s more colorful passages as “venom.”
Three actions by Judge Robert Hobgood since taking control of the proceeding which finds Cline in the hot seat do much to peel away veneers of objectivity and fairness. The alternatives to the decisions taken by the judge would have been preferable, I feel, and made it more likely that a fair and unbiased ruling could be reached. These important decisions are as follows:
One – Judge Hobgood’s decision to immediately suspend Tracey Cline was extremely prejudicial, and uncalled for. There was no impending threat to justice, life, or liberty had Ms. Cline been allowed to remain in her elected position until a determination could have been reached at the culmination of the hearing. Instead the only dividend reaped from this action was to force taxpayers’ monies to go towards paying the salary of an interim D.A. while Ms. Cline is suspended with pay. That is reason enough for allowing Ms. Cline to remain as the district attorney pending a final disposition.
Not only that, but issuing a suspension greatly prejudices the case against Ms. Cline, giving the impression that her conduct was so potentially hazardous that it required her immediate removal. Were I sitting in judgment of Ms. Cline in this matter, I would not have called for her suspension… as a matter of fairness.
Two – Judge Hobgood’s decision to deny Ms. Cline’s attorneys adequate time to prepare is a major disadvantage and handicap to the defendant. It is obvious that her attorneys, who were recently hired out of Pinehurst law firm, have not had time to get up to speed and prepare an adequate and effective defense. Delaying the hearing for several weeks is the reasonable approach in this instance. Denying Cline’s attorneys time to investigate, strategize, and build a case is not justifiable. It is like scheduling a boxing match and not giving one opponent the opportunity to train for the bout.
This is perhaps the main point of the three that bodes ill regarding the chance that Ms. Cline might hang on to her job. My understanding is that Attorney Sutton, who launched the removal process against Ms. Cline, argued against a delay because it would be inconvenient to some people involved. The initial delay of only one week that Judge Hobgood gave Ms. Cline, was stingy; and she required most of that time just to recover from a serious bout of pneumonia. Sutton also chided Cline for not being prepared when in Ms. Cline’s position to find legal representation without any conflict of interest is next to impossible.
I submit that the process of attaining true justice should be placed ahead of expediency and convenience. For Ms. Cline to receive justice in this hearing, it is imperative that she be given ample time to prepare her defense.
Three – Judge Hobgood’s decision to limit the scope of the hearing to statements Tracey Cline made against Judge Hudson. In other words, Judge Hobgood wants to take questionable actions by the media, mainly The News & Observer, and possible mistakes or misconduct by Judge Hudson out of the equation. By not allowing in questions put before journalists, how can she uphold a position that the media acted conspiratorially and with malice? By not being permitted to question the judge’s behavior and rulings in cases which she prosecuted, how can she prove bias on Judge Hudson’s part? Apparently, the only issue Judge Hobgood is willing to consider is Ms. Cline’s harsh diatribe against Hudson… period.
One of the commenters to my blog recently enlightened me with information that North Carolina is one of twelve states without a process for the general public to recall elected officials. The reason for that is because North Carolina is a backward state that has a little know rarely used law to allow a single individual to remove an official who was elected by the people. The more progressive states give the people the power, instead of a single individual, to remove the officials who the masses are responsible for putting into office. When Judge Hobgood removes Tracey Cline as Durham district attorney, he will be defying the will of the people who voted for her.
I believe in treating everyone with respect, be they judge, preacher, pauper, scoundrel, or Republican. Likewise we are all human beings with imperfections and frailties. There are no deities walking amongst us, and that includes those sitting on benches in our courtrooms. I believe in treating them with respect, but I do not feel they should be immune from vigorous criticism.
From what I can ascertain from Attorney Sutton’s complaint, she is appalled at the viciousness of the dialogue Ms. Cline directs at Judge Hudson… but from what I can tell about the judge, his skin is as thick as a rhinoceros, and he can take anything that Tracey Cline can dish out… or anything that I can dish out, although my basic comments about him have been in a lighthearted vein. For an example, I used humor in my comic strip – “The MisAdventures of Super-Duper Cooper” – to criticize his decision to deny Michael Peterson’s defense a new trial when it became known that his prosecutors withheld the existence of a tire iron that could have possibly been a murder weapon. Personally, I felt that that prosecutorial transgression demanded that the murder charge against him be dismissed.
I am not at conflict with Judge Hudson on all of his rulings. He was right on target when he dismissed the charge against African American Erick Daniels and freed him. Although he is deserving of a pardon so that he can receive compensation for the seven years of wrongful incarceration he served after his arrest at age fourteen, the racial-based policies in the governor’s office have denied his petition. The governor refuses to correct this injustice because Durham’s African American political leaders, such as Senator Floyd McKissick, and Representatives Larry Hall and Mickey Michaux, as well as Congressman David Price are enabling this discriminatory behavior by remaining silent.
I can appreciate the passion of Ms. Cline’s rebukes of Judge Hudson, but I cannot speak to the wisdom of them. My verbiage in complaints against U.S. Magistrate Judge P. Trevor Sharp tended to be a little spicy, but most importantly, it was accurate. My encounter with this magistrate judge stems from a lawsuit that I filed against Duke University in April 2011. The media has kept the public in the dark about the discrimination incident the previous year in which Duke University attempted to arrest me for being a Mike Nifong supporter. I complained about Magistrate Judge Sharp because, in making a recommendation adverse to me, he lied about the facts of my case in an attempt to boost the position of Duke University. As things now stand, I await hearing from the U.S. District Court judge about a decision regarding the defendants’ motion to dismiss; one which takes into consideration a recommendation that contains lies and misleading statements from the magistrate judge.
Finally, for anyone to believe that Tracey Cline’s ravings against Judge Hudson are capable of pulling the Durham D.A. Office or the justice system into disrepute is unrealistic. There is reason enough without that to draw such conclusions… specifically the 2010 and 2011 vendetta prosecutions against Crystal Mangum, the Duke Lacrosse victim/accuser.
Like the referee says prior to a coin toss, there are two sides to every coin. The fact that the suspended Durham district attorney has an unbridled zeal when it comes to prosecuting those charged with crimes, could very well be comforting to crime victims, their advocates, and those ensconced in crime-ridden neighborhoods. On the other hand, many defense attorneys may very well prefer going up against a district attorney who is more docile, passive, and compliant than Ms. Cline.
At all costs, justice should be strived for in any court and in every case. However, the outcome of this case is plainly evident. Judge Robert Hobgood is going to remove Tracey Cline as Durham district attorney. It’s a done deal. What is scheduled to proceed in court on Monday, Presidents’ Day, is nothing more than window dressing… a charade to give the appearances of justice being served. It is a deception for the unenlightened.
I would recommend that as soon as the court next convenes, the judge proceeds directly to issuing an order removing Tracey Cline as the elected Durham district attorney without any testimony, witnesses, or evidence. Since the outcome is foreordained and justice irreparable compromised, there’s no sense in inconveniencing anyone by going through the motions of holding a hearing. I am sure that Attorney Sutton would have no objections.