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Burns to consider further action in 1981 NT murder case

LOCKPORT – State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns met with attorneys behind closed doors Monday in regard to the case of Robie J. Drake, the North Tonawanda man twice convicted of two counts of murder in the 1981 slaying of two teenagers.

Both of Drake’s convictions were thrown out on appeal, and he was due for a third trial to start next week, until State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. recused himself last week.

Burns, newly assigned to the matter, may hold an open court session later this week to map the future of the case, attorneys on both sides said.

Drake, now 49, has been behind bars since the Dec. 5, 1981, shooting deaths of Amy Smith and Steven Rosenthal, two of his fellow North Tonawanda High School students, who were killed by rifle fire as they sat in a car in a dimly lighted factory parking lot.

Drake contended at his second trial that he didn’t know there was anyone in the rusted-out 1969 Chevrolet Nova, and he thought he was vandalizing an abandoned car. Juries that heard the case in 1982 and 2010 rejected that contention.