CONWAY -- A teenager accused of murdering a Conway couple signed a statement Tuesday saying that he was waiving his right to challenge any tape-recorded comments made to "jailhouse snitches" as a way to ensure those statements are credible if the prosecution uses them at trial.
Hunter Drexler of Clinton signed the waiver moments before a pretrial hearing began in Faulkner County Circuit Court on Tuesday. He is charged with capital murder and other felony offenses in the July 21 shooting deaths of Robert and Patricia Cogdell, both 66.
The waiver -- contained in an affidavit filed by Drexler's attorney, Patrick Benca -- noted that Drexler had been housed in the Faulkner County jail's juvenile unit but was moved to an adult section in another unit on Monday, Drexler's 18th birthday.
"Defendant and his Counsel are concerned that 'snitches,' or those looking for some benefit from the State in exchange for their cooperation in other matters, will come forth with bogus claims," the affidavit said. "These 'witnesses' are often called by the State to testify as to these supposed conversations."
The affidavit added, "A current and actual example is that a potential co-defendant in this case has allegedly been moved into the cell directly next to Hunter Drexler. Further, it has come to Counsel's attention that ample opportunity is allegedly given to this potential co-defendant to interact with Drexler. These are the type of tactics used by law enforcement and jailhouse snitches to garner outcomes favorable to them regardless of the truth or veracity of these statements."
It was unclear who that "potential co-defendant" was. Benca declined through a paralegal to comment on the waiver.
Drexler's only current co-defendant is Justin Staton, the 14-year-old boy the Cogdells had been raising as if he were their grandson. They became his legal guardians in 2010.
Justin was still held Tuesday in the jail's juvenile section, Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland confirmed.
Two other teenagers, both 17 and both previously described as "persons of interest" in the case, also remained in the juvenile section of the Faulkner County jail Tuesday but have not been charged in the slayings.
Authorities have been reluctant to discuss those two because they've not been charged as adults in Arkansas. Authorities in Texas, where the two were arrested as adults on misdemeanor offenses in July, however, have identified them as Conner Atchley and Anastasia Rose Roberts.
Atchley's attorney, Frank Shaw, said Tuesday that his client remained in the juvenile section of the jail and added, "Clearly, it's not him they're speaking of."
Because Roberts is a girl, she would not be in a cell adjacent to Drexler, either.
The three boys could have had contact with one another when all three were in the juvenile section, however.
Asked about Drexler's waiver, Hiland said, "The affidavit that was filed will have no bearing whatsoever on how we" prosecute the case.
The affidavit noted that Drexler is charged with two counts of abuse of a corpse in addition to capital murder. It did not mention the other charges filed against him -- two counts each of aggravated robbery and theft of property by threat.
In the waiver, Drexler's attorney wrote that his client is "innocent of these charges and has no reason to 'confess' or offer any inculpatory statements to anyone."
"Inculpatory" statements refer to those that that can be incriminating.
The affidavit continued: "To ensure that 'witnesses' are providing truthful information [of any such statements] he will specifically allow any of these 'inmate witnesses' to secretly record Drexler, with the help and aid of law enforcement. He will waive any right [under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution] to challenge these recorded statements should law enforcement intend to use them at trial.
"This waiver will ensure that [any such witness] statements are credible," it added.
Benca could point to the waiver and argue during a trial against the credibility of any such statements if they're not recorded.
Circuit Judge Troy Braswell set Drexler's next pretrial hearing for 10 a.m. Oct. 22.
State Desk on 09/16/2015
Print Headline: Teen suspect in deaths aims to foil snitches