Tonawanda News

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April 25, 2014

NT: Pretrial hearing begins in Drake case

Tonawanda News — Motions were discussed in Niagara County Court on Thursday regarding the third trial of Robie Drake, who has spent more than three decades in prison for the 1981 murder of two of his North Tonawanda High School classmates. 

Drake was first convicted in 1982 and sentenced to 40 years to life in prison, though a key witness, who testified on the nature of a bite mark found on one victim, was later discovered to be a janitor rather than an authority on the topic. 

 Drake’s sentence was lengthened during a second 2010 trial, before a 2012 ruling by a state appellate court found evidence from that trial to be inadmissible, and again declared a mistrial. 

On Thursday, the discussion largely centered on a 200-page motion filed by Drake’s defense team, county public defenders Christopher Privateer and Joseph Fraser, who tendered various requests to Judge Richard C. Kloch, who is overseeing the trial. 

While Kloch was ready to rule on the motions Wednesday, Privateer requested more time to file a response to the prosecution’s own 40-page motion led by Assistant District Attorney Thomas Brandt — an appeal that was granted with a deadline set for May 12.  

Among the volley of requests tendered by the defense and described by Kloch on Wednesday as “voluminous,” was a push to change the future trial to another jurisdiction, a measure already denied by a state appellate court earlier this year. Kloch, who oversaw Drake’s second trial in 2010, refused to recuse himself from the upcoming trial last year. 

The motion also asks that testimony gathered during previous trials be precluded from future court proceedings and that the trial take place in a larger courtroom within the Niagara County Courthouse. 

“This is not a specter, it’s a murder trial,” Kloch said to the request. “I didn’t see a problem in regards to this particular courtroom last time.”

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