NO NEW TRIAL FOR SKAKEL IN MOXLEY MURDER CASE
Almost 32 years to the day after the murder of Martha Moxley, a Superior Court judge has denied Michael Skakel’s appeal for a new trial.
In his ruling Thursday at Superior Court in Stamford, Judge Edward R. Karazin Jr. ruled that there was “no truly new or credible evidence” to upset a jury’s verdict five years ago that Skakel was guilty of 15 year-old Moxley’s murder.
Skakel, who was also 15 when the crime occurred, lived across the street from the Moxley house where Martha’s body was found beneath a tree on Halloween day, 1975. She had been killed about 10 p.m. the previous night, brutally beaten to death with a golf club.
Gitano “Tony” Bryant, cousin of Kobe Bryant and one of Skakel’s former classmates, claimed in 2003 that his two friends told him just days after the murder that they had assaulted Martha “caveman style.” He said he remained silent for 28 years for fear of being implicated in the murder himself.
Judge Karazin didn’t buy it, but his ruling is by no means the final chapter of the Michael Skakel case.
JUSTICE DELAYED OR JUSTICE DENIED?
Skakel, now 47, is serving a 20-years-to-life sentence. Moxley’s murder remained unsolved for nearly a quarter-century until a grand jury investigation led to Skakel’s arrest in 2000, at age 39. His new lawyers, Hope Seeley and Hubert Santos, assert the crime is still unsolved.
“We maintain that Mr. Skakel was wrongly convicted and that, if a jury had heard all of the evidence, he would never have been convicted,” Seeley said Thursday. “We intend to pursue all legal avenues possible, including appealing this decision, filing a federal writ of habeas corpus raising constitutional issues, as well as a state habeas petition addressing the ineffective assistance of counsel.”
Karazin’s ruling helped Skakel in one way: It bolsters his claim that his trial lawyer, Michael “Mickey” Sherman, failed him miserably.
The 36-page ruling characterizes much of the evidence that Santos and Seeley presented during the April hearing on Skakel’s civil petition for a new trial as material that Sherman should have been able to obtain either before Skakel’s 2002 trial or during it. That evidence includes a sketch of an unfamiliar man seen walking in Belle Haven the night of the murder and detailed police profile reports of suspects Kenneth Littleton – a new tutor hired by the Skakel family – and Thomas Skakel, Michael’s older brother. It also includes the whereabouts of three Elan School classmates of Michael Skakel’s who might have been able to discredit a key prosecution witness.
“All three of these witnesses could have been found prior to trial by the same methods employed to find them after trial,” Karazin wrote. His ruling underscores that Sherman did not use “due diligence” in locating witnesses and demanding evidence.
(PHOTO CAPTION: Douglas Kennedy (left), RFK Jr., and Mickey Sherman during Michael Skakel’s 2002 trial for the murder of Martha Moxley.)
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has been the most outspoken member of the Kennedy family about this case, proclaiming his cousin’s innocence at every opportunity. In a 2003 article he wrote for the Atlantic (“A Miscarriage of Justice”), Kennedy called the Skakel trial a “media lynching,” and presented a convincing argument for Skakel’s innocence, reminding readers that the prosecution had no fingerprints, no DNA, and no witnesses.
“IF HE WERE GUILTY, I WOULD HAVE TESTIFIED AGAINST HIM. BUT HE IS NOT.” — BOBBY KENNEDY, JR.
RFK Jr. visited Skakel in prison, attended the trial, and has spent the years since gathering potential evidence to clear his cousin’s name. “Many people asked me why I would publicly defend him—a cause unlikely to enhance my own credibility.” Kennedy said in The Atlantic article. “I support him not out of misguided family loyalty but because I am certain he is innocent.”
At the televised retrial hearing back in April, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. testified that he wasn’t always close to his cousin by marriage, but he said he felt obligated to come forward with information given to him by Tony Bryant which implicates other people in the murder.
Kennedy had put Skakel’s attorneys in touch with Bryant, the one-time classmate who implicated two friends in the crime.
“I knew that Michael was innocent. I knew he’d been wrongly convicted,” Kennedy said. “Although my relationship with him was a troubled one, I knew that an innocent man was in prison, and I knew facts that had not been part of the trial and they were not part of the public debate.”
Bobby’s mother Ethel Kennedy (Skakel’s aunt) sat in the front row of the courtroom.
The defense played a tape of a conversation between Bobby Kennedy Jr. and Bryant about the two men Bryant implicated, Adolph Hasbrouck and Burt Tinsley.
“They need to interview and focus on this guy Adolph because he said some very, very, very, very damaging statements that, I mean, just blew me away,” Bryant told Kennedy, according to a transcript of the conversation.
With several potential other suspects in the crime still walking free, Michael Skakel will probably spend the rest of his days behind bars for a murder many believe he did not commit.
After the judge’s ruling came down Thursday denying Skakel a new trial, one website devoted to convincing the public that Skakel was railroaded went dark in protest of the decision. The webmaster of Skakel.org posted the following statement:
Due to a tragedy in the CT “justice” system, this site has been temporarily disabled in a programmed moment of silence.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Michael Skakel (whom we also believe is innocent), as well as the Kennedy, Skakel, and Moxley families. We refuse to lose hope that the REAL killer (s) will be found, tried and convicted, and that one day, there will truly be justice for Martha.
And justice for Michael, too.
Copyright 2007 by RFKin2008.com. All Rights Reserved.