Tonawanda News — LOCKPORT — Another round of legal arguments took place Tuesday morning in Niagara County Court over the inner-workings of a third trial for Robie Drake, who has served more than three decades in prison for killing two North Tonawanda teenagers in 1981.
With more than a half dozen attorneys representing both sides of the legal table and meeting before state Supreme Court Judge Richard C. Kloch, the gist of the debate largely centered on whether a witness who testified in the early 1980s would be able to do so again, and within what parameters, during a second Drake re-trial that is expected to begin next year.
The witness, who was used to establish the time and place of the homicides during the first trial, has a long history of legal troubles in the years since, including an arrest last month for a domestic incident that led to assault and harassment charges.
The individual used members of the Niagara County Public Defender’s Office as his legal representation for the alleged crimes as well as for previous arrests, leading to a potential conflict. A similar argument was held earlier this month over another witness.
The conversation on Tuesday also turned to how the witness could affect Drake’s legal defense, including what of the witness’ criminal history would be admissible during cross-examination.
Kloch, who was concerned about a potential conflict, offered Drake the option of outside representation because the “Public Defender may in fact be affected by this” and required Drake to “waive any potential or actual conflict” with his legal team in order to move forward with a trial.
Drake stood firm on his conviction to keep his attorneys, Assistant Public Defenders Joseph Frazier and Christopher Privateer, because of a level of familiarity established during a 2010 re-trial, members of the defense team said.
“Mr. Drake is a very intelligent client,” said criminal defense attorney John Molloy, who was asked by the court to provide legal assistance to Drake while resolving any potential conflict. He Molloy: “Mr. Drake is comfortable with his decision and very comfortable with the attorneys he has representing him.”
Another hearing is scheduled for Nov. 7.