Kennedy cousin Skakel wins new trial in 1975 death

Last Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 - 10:35

Hartford (US): A US judge has granted a new trial for Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel, ruling his attorney failed to adequately represent him when he was convicted in 2002 of killing his teenage neighbour in 1975 with a golf club.

The ruling yesterday marked a dramatic reversal after years of unsuccessful appeals by Skakel, the 52-year-old nephew of Robert F Kennedy`s widow, Ethel Kennedy. Skakel is serving 20 years to life.

Bridgeport State`s Attorney John Smriga told The Associated Press that prosecutors will appeal the decision.

Skakel`s current attorney, Hubert Santos, said he expects to file a motion for bail today. If a judge approves it, Skakel could then post bond and be released from prison.

Skakel argued his trial attorney, Michael Sherman, was negligent in defending him when he was convicted in the bludgeoning of Martha Moxley when they were 15.
Prosecutors contended Sherman`s efforts far exceeded standards and that the verdict was based on compelling evidence against Skakel.

Prosecutor Susann Gill said the state`s case included three confessions and nearly a dozen incriminating statements by Skakel over the years. She also said there was strong evidence of motive.

"His drug-addled mental state, coupled with the infuriating knowledge that his hated brother Tommy had a sexual liaison with Martha, and the fact that Martha spurned his advances, triggered the rage which led him to beat her to death with a golf club," Gill wrote.

Santos argued that the prosecutors` case rested entirely on two witnesses of dubious credibility who came forward with stories of confessions after 20 years and the announcement of a reward. Skakel had an alibi, he said.

Santos contends Sherman was "too enamored with the media attention to focus on the defense." Sherman told criminal defense attorneys at a seminar in Las Vegas six months before the trial that one of his goals in representing Skakel was to have a "good time," Santos said.

"Defending a murder charge ... Is not about getting invited to A-list parties in New York City, or launch parties for the trendy new television show, or going to the Academy Awards and all the `cool parties` afterwards," Santos wrote in court papers.

Sherman has said he did all he could to prevent Skakel`s conviction and denied he was distracted by media attention in the high-profile case.

Skakel, who maintains his innocence, was denied parole last year and was told he would not be eligible again to be considered for release for five years.

PTI

First Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013 - 10:35

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