HBO Max’s crime series ‘The Staircase’ centers around the murder of Kathleen Peterson, who is found dead at the bottom of a staircase in her house. The authorities suspect her husband, Michael Peterson, of being the murderer while he claims his wife died after falling down the stairs. Michael eventually gets indicted and tried. Judge Orlando Hudson presides the court during Michael’s original trial, his retrial hearing, and Michael’s entering of an Alford plea. Since Judge Hudson is a pivotal presence during Michael’s legal battles in the show, one must be wondering whether the character is based on a real person. Well, let us provide the answer!
Is Judge Orlando Hudson Based on a Real Person?
Yes, Judge Orlando Hudson is based on a real person. The character is based on the eponymous North Carolina judge who presided over Michael Peterson’s trial in real life. Hudson grew up in the city of High Point in North Carolina in a family of teachers. He received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and subsequently practiced law privately as a public defender and an assistant DA. Hudson served as the District Court Judge for five years before becoming a Superior Court Judge.
As per reports, he became the Senior Resident Judge of North Carolina Superior Court’s 14th Judicial District in 1995. Hudson presided over Michael’s trial from the start to his conviction in 2003. The judge later admitted that he would have presided over the trial differently if it had happened in 2017. “There are things that I would have changed [if the trial happened in 2017]. All of the homosexual evidence… however it was used, would have been unduly prejudicial to the defense,” he said on ‘The Staircase,’ Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s docuseries.
It was Hudson who granted Michael another trial in 2011 after finding that SBI analyst Duane Deaver’s influential testimony in the original trial was “materially misleading” and “deliberately false.” In 2017, Michael entered an Alford plea when Hudson presided over the court. Hudson sentenced Michael for time already served, which enabled him to walk away from the court as a free man. Hudson believes that the judicial system did work in Michael’s case. “Although he spent eight years in prison, maybe time that he should not have spent, certainly his conviction was reversed. That is very strong evidence that the criminal justice system does work,” he said on ‘The Staircase.’
Where is Judge Orlando Hudson Now?
Judge Orlando Hudson is still the Senior Resident Judge of the North Carolina Superior Court’s 14th judicial district. Hudson was re-elected in his position in the general election conducted in November 2020 as the Democratic Party candidate. His current term reportedly ends in 2028. Over the years, Hudson has presided several high-profile and famed cases. In 2021, he was named the defendant in a civil rights suit, but the case was dismissed per his motion. As per sources, Hudson currently resides in Durham, North Carolina.
In a recent interview, Hudson expressed that he likes to preside in high-profile cases. “I like being in the spotlight. I understand it has to do with preparation. I get excited by complicated high-profile cases because it means I have to think, and I have to perform. But I feel like I’ve got the background to do it,” Hudson told AALM. Even though Hudson admittedly likes the spotlight as a judge, he has chosen to keep his familial life away from the same.