NEW BEDFORD — The local attorney accused by several witnesses of, in essence, rigging the judicial system to secure a conviction against one of the most notorious convicted murderers in this area’s long history said he has given up on asking why, and is just relieved the ordeal is now over.
David Waxler a former top prosecutor with the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office and currently a personal injury lawyer, sat down for an interview Friday morning, a few days after a Superior Court judge ordered convicted murderer Carl Drew’s motion for new trial be denied.
Drew was convicted of the ritualistic slaying of 20-year-old Karen Marsden during a string of similar murders in and around Fall River, which were later dubbed “the Cult Murders.”
The veteran attorney found himself in the middle of a storm of allegations by former trial witnesses, who each in different ways claimed Waxler had committed a felony by coercing and intimidating witnesses into testifying falsely prior to and during Drew’s 1981 murder trial.
When asked if he felt vindicated by Judge John Connor’s ruling — which stated that he found the recanting witnesses’ stories lacked credibility — Waxler said he felt “vindication” was the wrong word.
“I don’t think anyone would like to have a 25-year career called into question like this,” Waxler said. “But I became a lawyer because I really believed in the judicial system. It separates our society from a lot of others. So, I just relied on the system.”
Waxler, however, conceded the allegations levied against him by the four recanting witnesses were difficult for his wife and three children.
“This case was never really about me. It was about whether Carl Drew was innocent,” Waxler asserted. “My two boys looked me in the eye and said, ‘We never believed it.’ The same with my wife.”
Waxler, who prosecuted the Drew murder case in 1981, was specifically accused by the recanting witnesses’ of threatening them with prosecution if they did not testify the way he wanted them to.
But in Connor’s final ruling, he found that Waxler had an impeccable reputation for honesty and integrity. In fact, when Drew’s attorney searched for any other allegation ever levied against Waxler, he came up empty.
Waxler’s reputation, called into question by recanting witnesses, was vigorously defended by the two prosecutors handling the case and was further supported by a litany of well-respected past and present trial judges and area attorneys.
Waxler said he was flattered by all the support given to him by his colleagues and some of the judges he has argued before in the past.
“I was truly flattered by all the judges and lawyers who chose to come forward,” Waxler said. “I feel very fortunate to have these friends.”
Waxler also took some time to express gratitude to prosecutors Steven Gagne and Kevin Connelly, and even said he respected the role that Drew’s attorney, Michael Cutler, played during the evidentiary hearings to determine whether Drew would be granted a new trial.
“I want to re-emphasize the yeoman’s work of Mr. Gagne and Mr. Connolly,” Waxler said. “I think they did a great job and were very thorough. I give them great credit.”
Waxler also said he can’t even begin to comprehend why the recanting witnesses’ chose to accuse him of these illegal acts.
The only reasoning he could give to the accusations was to say that a lot of people in society have very different views on which rules are and are not important to follow.
“When you look at the lives of people involved in drugs and lawlessness, it’s really not worth while to assess their motives or reasoning,” Waxler explained. “For people to perform rituals for Satan and then try to assess their rationale is absurd. But I certainly would have preferred that this didn’t happen.”
Waxler asserted that the recanting witnesses’ stories of coercion and misconduct were simply “illogical.”
When he looks back at the bizarre Drew murder case, Waxler admits that it was one of the more unusual of his career.
But Waxler insists that the evidence against Drew was overwhelming.
“There was a combination of testimonial evidence and a large amount of physical evidence in this case,” Waxler said. “I was concerned that a small town community (Fitchburg, where the trial was held) would not believe the gory details. But the jury reached its verdict in just a few hours.”
He said the testimony given during the 1981 trial by two of the now-recanting witnesses, Carol Fletcher and convicted murderer Robin Marie Murphy, was the truth and will remain the truth.
“People who looked at them (in 1981) could see they were telling the truth. Even great actresses would have trouble telling such a dark tale,” Waxler said. “These weren’t well-trained actresses.”
The veteran personal injury lawyer also discussed his reasons for leaving the district attorney’s office shortly after the Drew conviction had been secured, saying one had nothing to do with the other.
“People after the trial told me I looked terrible and drained,” Waxler explained. “I was dealing with a lot of human pain and suffering every day and this was not something I wanted to continue to do.
“But the decision to leave was already in the works prior to the Drew case.”
Waxler said his only regret from the initial trial was that Marsden’s body has never been recovered.
“I regret not finding out where the body is, which could have brought closure to her family religiously and on an emotional level,” Waxler said. “But from an evidentiary standpoint, once we had these renowned experts saying this (skull) is Karen, that made the case completely.”
He said he hopes and expects that people will not unfairly judge him based on recently unfounded allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.
“I’d like to believe people judge you on your life,” Waxler said. “Not just on one day’s story in a newspaper.”