Court hearing set for Kennedy cousin Skakel in 1975 killing
Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel is expected at a court hearing Friday as Connecticut prosecutors decide whether to retry him for the bludgeoning death of a fellow teenager in 1975.
Skakel has been free on bail since 2013, when a state judge vacated his murder conviction in the death of Martha Moxley, who was killed in their wealthy Greenwich neighborhood when both she and Skakel were 15 years old. The case went cold for 25 years until Skakel’s arrest in 2000.
Friday is the 45th anniversary of the slaying.
The nature of the hearing wasn’t clear as the case remains sealed under a state juvenile offender law. But it was expected to be closely watched for any indication of how prosecutors intend to proceed in a case where the defendant, now 60 years old, already served over a decade in prison and the passage of so many decades would complicate efforts to retry the case.
Moxley’s brother, John Moxley, said in an interview this week that he and his mother, Dorthy, would be comfortable if the state dropped the case, because they have grown weary after two decades of court battles. But they remain convinced Skakel is the killer.
“My mom’s 88. She doesn’t need to go through another trial,” John Moxley said. “It’s like someone getting ready to run a marathon. You know there’s going to be pain. Do you really want to do it again?”
Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, was convicted of murder in 2002 and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. Several appeals followed. After serving 11 years behind bars, Skakel was freed on $1.2 million bail when a judge overturned his conviction in 2013, saying his trial lawyer failed to adequately represent him.
The state Supreme Court initially reinstated Skakel’s conviction in a 4-3 ruling in 2016. But the court reversed itself in 2018 in a highly unusual decision that came after the justice who wrote the 2016 majority opinion retired soon afterward and a new justice sided with Skakel, as the court reconsidered the case at Skakel’s request. Justices said in the new 4-3 ruling that Skakel’s trial lawyer failed to present an alibi witness.
The U.S. Supreme Court last year declined to hear the state’s appeal.
The case has drawn wide attention because of the Kennedy name, Skakel’s rich family, numerous theories about who killed Moxley and the brutal way in which she died. Several other people, including Skakel’s brother Tommy Skakel who denied any role in the killing, have been mentioned as possible killers. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has been one of Skakel’s most prominent defenders.
Prosecutors, who lacked forensic evidence in the original trial, would face numerous challenges if they decided to retry Skakel. A new alibi witness emerged, a key witness who said Skakel confessed is dead and the Moxley family is leery of going through another trial.
On the night of the killing, Martha Moxley and other teens in the Belle Haven neighborhood were out doing pre-Halloween pranks and had visited the Skakel home, police said.
Her body was found the next day on her family’s estate, across the street from the Skakel home. She had been beaten with a 6-iron owned by the Skakel family and stabbed in the throat with a piece of the golf club’s shattered shaft, police said.
At Skakel’s trial, prosecutors suggested Skakel was angry with Martha because she had spurned his advances while having a sexual liaison with his brother Tommy.
Michael Skakel said he was miles away from the crime scene watching a “Monty Python” television show with others at the likely time Moxley was killed. But prosecutors maintain he could have killed her after returning home that night.