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Michael C. SKAKEL

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (15) - Skakel is the nephew of Ethel Skakel Kennedy, the widow of Senator Robert F. Kennedy
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 30, 1975
Date of arrest: January 19, 2000 (25 years later)
Date of birth: September 19, 1960
Victim profile: Martha Elizabeth Moxley, 15 (his neighbor)
Method of murder: Bludgeoned with a golf club, a 6-iron
Location: Greenwich, Connecticutt, USA
Status: Sentenced to 20 years to life in prison on July 19, 2002
 
 

 
 

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State of Connecticutt v. Michael Skakel (SC 16844)

 
 

Petition for new trial

 
 

 
 

Timeline

 
 

 
 

Michael C. Skakel (born September 19, 1960) was convicted in 2002 of the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley, his 15-year-old neighbor in Greenwich, Connecticut. He was sentenced to 20 years to life and remains incarcerated. Skakel is the nephew of Ethel Skakel Kennedy, the widow of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

Early life

Michael Skakel was one of six children born to Rushton and Anne Reynolds Skakel. The family lived in the neighborhood of Belle Haven in Greenwich, Connecticut. After his mother's death from brain cancer in 1973, Skakel became an alcoholic and had difficulties at school. His cousin Robert F. Kennedy Jr. later wrote that Skakel was a "small sensitive child — the runt of the litter with a harsh and occasionally violent alcoholic father who both ignored and abused him." He also struggled for years with dyslexia, which went undiagnosed until he was 26.

In 1978, Skakel was arrested for drunk driving in New York. To avoid criminal charges, Skakel's family sent him to the Elan School in Poland Spring, Maine where he received treatment for alcoholism. He left the school after two years and spent much of the 1980s competing on the national speed skiing circuit.

In 1993, he graduated from Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts and worked as a driver for Ted Kennedy's 1994 reelection campaign. Later that year he took a job working for his cousin Michael Kennedy at the Citizens Energy Corporation as director of international programs.

Prosecution for murder

Martha Moxley was found dead on October 31, 1975 on her family's property in Greenwich, Connecticut, after having been bludgeoned with a golf club, a 6-iron soon determined to belong to the Skakels.

Initially, the murder remained unsolved, though a cloud of suspicion hung over the Skakel home. Ken Littleton also became a prime suspect. When William Kennedy Smith was tried for rape in 1991, information surfaced that he knew more about the Moxley case, resulting in renewed investigation to the then, "cold case".

In 1993 author Dominick Dunne, father of murdered actress Dominique Dunne, published A Season in Purgatory, a fictional story loosely based on the murder of Martha Moxley. Mark Fuhrman's 1998 book Murder in Greenwich named Skakel as the murderer and pointed out numerous mistakes the police had made in investigating the crime.

During the years before the Dunne and Fuhrman books, work had been done by Greenwich Police detective Frank Garr and police reporter Leonard Levitt, that named Michael as the killer.

Trial

In June of 1998 a rarely invoked one-man Grand Jury was convened, and after 18 months (in June of 2000) Michael Skakel was indicted for the murder of Martha Moxley. In a highly publicized trial, Skakel was convicted for the murder of Martha Moxley on June 7, 2002, and received a sentence of 20 years to life in prison. Skakel's alibi was that at the time of the murder he was at his cousin's house.

The jury also heard part of a taped book proposal, in which Skakel admitted to masturbating in a tree that night, but not to killing Moxley. Prosecutors took words from this proposal and overlayed them on graphic images of Martha Moxley's dead body in a computerized presentation shown to jurors during closing arguments. Skakel's defense insists that his words were taken out of context.

In January of 2003, attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Skakel's cousin, wrote a controversial article in The Atlantic Monthly entitled "A Miscarriage of Justice," insisting that Skakel's indictment "was triggered by an inflamed media, and that an innocent man is now in prison".

He presents an argument alleging that there is more evidence suggesting that then-twenty-three year old Skakel family live-in tutor, Ken Littleton, killed Moxley. He also credits the pursuit of Skakel to Dominick Dunne.

Appeal and post-conviction proceedings

Skakel continues to fight his conviction. In November of 2003, Skakel appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, arguing that the trial court erred because the case should have been heard in Juvenile Court rather than Superior Court, that the statute of limitations had expired on the charges against him, and that there was prosecutorial misconduct.

On January 12, 2006, however, the Connecticut Supreme Court rejected Skakel's claims and affirmed his conviction. Subsequently, Skakel retained attorney and former United States Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who on July 12, 2006 filed a petition for a writ of certiorari on behalf of Skakel before the Supreme Court of the United States. On November 13, 2006, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Since then, Skakel has begun his first round of post-conviction proceedings, beginning with a petition for writ of habeas corpus and motion for new trial in the Connecticut trial court which originally heard his case. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has brought forth Gitano "Tony" Bryant, cousin of Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant and a former classmate of Skakel at the private Brunswick School in Greenwich, Connecticut.

In a videotaped interview with Skakel private investigator Vito Colucci in August of 2003, Bryant said one of his companions the night of Moxley's murder wanted to "go caveman" on her, meaning violently have his way with her. Bryant says he never came forward before because his mother warned him, and he believed her, that as a black man he would be tagged for the unsolved murder.

A two week hearing in April of 2007 allowed the presentation of this evidence, among other matters. And in September of 2007, Skakel's attorneys filed a petition based in part on Bryant's claims, asking for a new trial. Prosecutors formally responded that Bryant may have made up the story to sell a play about the case.

The new Skakel defense team also hired a full time round-the-clock investigative team to review existing and new information--particularly a book written about Elan School --in preparation for the hearing. They argued that no other Elan School residents with Skakel--other than Gregory Coleman--ever spoke about Skakel's confession to anyone including author of the book.

On October 25, 2007, a Superior Court judge denied the request for a new trial, saying Bryant's testimony was not credible and there was no evidence of prosecutorial misconduct in the original trial. Skakel's lawyer appealed this decision to the Connecticut Supreme Court. On March 26, 2009, a five judge panel of the state Supreme Court heard arguments on this appeal. On April 12, 2010, the panel ruled 4-1 against Skakel's appeal. Skakel was sentenced on August 29th, 2002

Skakel is still imprisoned at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield ,CT and eligible for a parole hearing in April 2013.

References

  • Fuhrmann, M. (1998). Murder in Greenwich: Who Killed Martha Moxley?. ISBN 0-06-019141-4. 

  • Levitt, L. (2004). Conviction: Solving the Moxley Murder. ISBN 0-06-054430-9

Wikipedia.org


Martha Elizabeth Moxley (August 16, 1960 – October 30, 1975) was a fifteen-year-old murder victim in a case that attracted worldwide publicity.

Born in San Francisco, California, Moxley and her family moved to Belle Haven, an exclusive section of Greenwich, Connecticut, in the summer of 1974.

Just 15 months later, on the evening of October 30, 1975, Moxley left with friends to attend a Halloween party at the Skakel home, one block away. She reportedly had crushes on both Michael and Thomas Skakel (nephews of Ethel Skakel Kennedy), and both boys often fought over the girl.

According to friends, Moxley began flirting with and eventually kissing Thomas Skakel. Moxley was last seen "falling together behind the fence" near the pool in the Skakel backyard at around 9:30 p.m.

The next day, Moxley's body was found underneath a tree in her family's backyard. Her pants and underwear were pulled down, but she had not been sexually assaulted. Pieces of a broken six-iron golf club were found near the body. An autopsy indicated she had been both bludgeoned and stabbed with the club, which was traced back to the Skakel home.

Thomas Skakel was the last person to be seen with Moxley the night of the murder, and had a weak alibi. Thomas Skakel became the prime suspect, but his father forbade access to his school and mental health records, and the case languished for decades. In the meantime, several books were published about the crime, including Timothy Dumas's A Wealth of Evil, and a novel, A Season In Purgatory, by Dominick Dunne, based on the Moxley case.

Martha Moxley was interred at Putnam Cemetery in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Over the years, both Thomas Skakel and Michael Skakel significantly changed their alibis for the night of Moxley's murder. Michael Skakel claimed that he had been window-peeping and masturbating in a tree beside the Moxley property from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

Two former students of a drug rehab center, which Michael Skakel attended in 1978, testified that they heard Skakel confess to killing Moxley with a golf club after she refused to have sexual intercourse with him. He then bragged, "I'm going to get away with murder. I'm a Kennedy."

The case of Moxley's murder remained "cold" until 2000 after Mark Fuhrman released his book, "Murder in Greenwich," investigating the crime. Following a lengthy grand jury investigation, Michael Skakel was indicted for her murder. On June 7, 2002, a jury in Norwalk, Connecticut, convicted Michael Skakel in the murder of Martha Moxley. Subsequently, he was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.

After trial, Skakel appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, but the Court affirmed his conviction. Subsequently, he sought a writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court of the United States, which was denied.

Attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Skakel's cousin, wrote an article that was published in The Atlantic Monthly in January of 2003 entitled "A Miscarriage of Justice," arguing that there was more evidence suggesting other suspects were guilty than there was against Skakel. Partly based on Kennedy's new evidence, Skakel has begun the post-conviction relief process, filing a habeas corpus petition and motion for new trial in Connecticut trial court. A hearing is scheduled for late April of 2007.

Actress Maggie Grace played Moxley in the made-for-TV movie Murder in Greenwich.


Exclusive: Ghosts Of Greenwich

48 Hours: RFK Jr. Speaks Out On Moxley Murder Case

Sept. 10, 2003

(CBS) In a 48 Hours Investigates exclusive interview, Robert Kennedy Jr. talks about new clues and possible new suspects in the Martha Moxley murder.

Kennedy shares new details about two young men who were allegedly in the gated Belle Haven community in Greenwich, Conn., the night of Moxley's murder.

He also tells Correspondent Lesley Stahl how he personally elicited details of their possible involvement from Tony Bryant, cousin of NBA player Kobe Bryant.

48 Hours Investigates is investigating the developments of the last few days that supporters hope will prove that Michael Skakel is an innocent man. This case was last updated in April.

*****

It’s spring of 2002, and the end of a trial that Dorthy Moxley had been waiting and praying for, for nearly 30 years.

Those prayers were finally answered after four days of deliberations, 27 years after the murder of her daughter Martha.

For the Moxleys, it was the end of a long ordeal. “You know, this is Martha's day,” says Dorthy Moxley. “This is truly Martha's day."

There is no doubt in her mind that Skakel committed this crime. But for the family of convicted murderer Michael Skakel, it was the lowest moment in their long ordeal.

"For us, this trial has felt like a witch hunt," says David Skakel, Michael’s brother. “For our family, grieving has coincided with accusation. Michael is innocent.”

“I know there is no way on earth he could have done this,” says younger brother, Stephen Skakel. “And I will fight with the last breath in me to get him free.”

In April, three members of the Skakel family -- Stephen and his brothers John and David -- spoke publicly about their brother, Michael. With Michael’s appeal scheduled for this fall, his brothers decided to go public.

Stephen will never forget the moment the jury returned its verdict against his brother. "I looked down at the floor, and you know, my whole world had been shattered,” he remembers.

"Our brother Michael's been stolen from us,” adds David.

“He's innocent,” says John. “I know that."

*****

But they are not alone in their conviction. Robert Kennedy Jr., Michael’s cousin, has also been speaking out in his defense.

“And you know people are going to dismiss that and say, 'Well, of course he's defending his cousin,'" says Kennedy. "But the facts speak for themselves ... I'm utterly convinced that he did not do the crime."

Kennedy, a former prosecutor and now a professor of law at Pace University, spent several months re-examining the conviction of his cousin. Since his findings were published last February in The Atlantic Monthly, Kennedy says he has received hundreds of letters about the case.

"I treated all these things with a lot of skepticism," he says.

But when a letter from a former classmate of Michael Skakel named Crawford Mills arrived, Kennedy was intrigued: "Crawford told me that Tony had information about the murder of Martha Moxley."

Tony is Tony Bryant, cousin of basketball star Kobe Bryant - who is facing charges of rape. He claims that two of his childhood friends boasted about committing the murder.

"They went up to Greenwich on several occasions with Tony. That one of them ... became obsessed with Martha Moxley," says Kennedy.

Now, based on this new information, Skakel's defense attorney says she plans to file for a new trial.

*****

For the Skakels, it's almost ironic that a Kennedy has come to their brother's defense. But they believe it was the "Kennedy connection" that put them in the spotlight to begin with.

The TV miniseries, “Murder in Greenwich,” is just the latest in a parade of books, articles and TV dramatizations about Martha Moxley’s murder - led by writer Dominick Dunne and disgraced policeman-turned-writer Mark Fuhrman.

When Michael first emerged as a suspect, both Dunne and Fuhrman referred to him as a Kennedy cousin. “I think you have a lot of problems with lots of power and money and politics,” says Fuhrman.

The Skakel brothers are the nephews of Ethel Skakel Kennedy, who married Robert Kennedy in 1950.

“The Skakel family were as powerful and as rich as the Kennedys,” says Dunne. But the Skakel brothers disagree with that statement.

"Dominick Dunne calls us all a bunch of rich snobs,” says Stephen. “But he was the only one that I saw coming to court every day in a limousine."

“These comments are coming from people who don’t know us, and who have never even quizzed us on our lives or asked us or really seen us for who we are,” adds David.

The brothers say they live modest lives. Stephen has worked for a humanitarian aid group for 11 years. David works as a county recycling manager. And John sells insurance.

But once upon a time, the Skakels were millionaires, living a life of wealth and privilege. Their father, Rushton Skakel, had inherited a fortune from the family mining company.

"It was a different time back then, a whole different life," remembers John.

Thirty years ago, the family lived in the exclusive Belle Haven section of Greenwich, Conn.

“It was a fairly well-to-do area,” remembers Stephen. “It was a very friendly, open neighborhood. There were lots of children. It was a wonderful place to grow up."

A cloud cast a shadow over those happy times for this family of six boys and a girl when they lost their mother to cancer.

“I remember my father said, 'Your mother has died. If you want to go to your room and cry, that’s fine.' And it was never discussed again,” says Stephen. “He was just as traumatized as we were.”

Unable to cope with raising seven children on his own, Rushton hired a nanny, and then, in October 1975, a live-in tutor named Ken Littleton. Littleton was a football coach and, as Stephen remembers, “pretty much a loner.”

The day after Littleton took up residence in the Skakel home, Martha Moxley, the Skakel's pretty next-door neighbor, was found murdered.

*****

Martha Moxley was murdered at the age of 15. Len Levitt, a reporter for New York Newsday, has spent nearly twice as many years investigating her murder.

"I became an old man doing this case," says Levitt. "My kids weren't even born when I started this. They are 18 and 20 years old at this point."

Levitt is now writing a book on the case he began following after Martha’s death on Oct. 30, 1975 – the night before Halloween.

"Martha does not return home and her mother, obviously, is concerned,” remembers Levitt. “And she starts making calls at about 1 a.m. that night. The police now are called that morning by Mrs. Moxley and they start searching.”

Martha was found the next day, beaten to death with a golf club. In fact, she was so severely beaten that the golf club is shattered into four pieces.

This was the first clue the police had to go on.

“It turned out that the day the body was found, police found a golf club that matched the murder weapon inside the Skakel home,” says Levitt. But at the time, he says it wasn’t enough to arouse their suspicions.

The investigation began by establishing the likely time of Martha’s death. To do this, Greenwich police consulted forensic expert Dr. Michael Baden.

"It was our opinion that the time of death, based only on stomach contents, was somewhere between 9:30 and 10 o'clock," says Baden.

The police then established who had been with Martha that night. According to Levitt, Martha arrived at the Skakel house around 9 p.m. with some friends. She got into the Skakels' Lincoln, which was parked in the driveway, and sat between Michael and his older brother, Tommy. A short time later, the Skakels say, Martha got out of the car with Tommy, while Michael and a few others drove off.

Around 9:15 p.m., Michael went with his older brothers (Rushton Jr., John and his cousin, Jimmy Terrian) back to Terrian's house. During the time of Martha’s murder, John Skakel remembers being at the Terrians' house, and watching the U.S. premiere of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

"At 10 p.m., Michael was eight miles away with myself, my brother Rushie and Jimmy Terrian,” says John.

Meanwhile, back at the Skakel home, what goes on between Martha and Tommy is sort of playful - pushing back and forth with sexual overtones. Her friends are so embarrassed they leave.

Tommy tells the police that he last sees Martha at 9.30 p.m. that night when she leaves to go home. But Martha never makes it home.

Tommy is seen shortly after 10 p.m. with the tutor, Littleton, who is unpacking and watching “The French Connection” on TV.

*****

Everyone the Greenwich police interviewed, everyone who saw Martha that night had an alibi. In fact, Michael Skakel’s alibi was so strong, he was not considered a suspect.

Several weeks passed before investigators turned their attention to the person they believed was the last to see Martha alive: Tommy Skakel. After his last meeting with Martha, Tommy said he went inside to write a paper on Abraham Lincoln. The police later found out that no teacher at Tommy’s school had ever assigned the paper. By late fall, according to Levitt, they were “focusing on Tommy with a vengeance.”

“It was shock and disbelief,” remembers Stephen. “He said he didn’t do it. And I know he didn’t do it.”

Tommy Skakel lived under a cloud of suspicion for years. Now married with children, he is the only family member who refused to talk with 48 Hours. In the end, police never charged him, partly because of his alibi that night.

“The problem with Tommy as a murder suspect is that if this happened at 10 o'clock, Tommy's alibi is Ken Littleton,” says Levitt.

With no new leads, the investigation went cold. But Dorthy Moxley never gave up hope: “We knew it had to be one of the boys, either Tommy or Michael. The murder weapon came from that house and that was the last place she was seen.”

*****

Part II: New Clues In Moxley Case

(CBS) In 1991, 16 years after Martha’s murder, the case was revived when a new investigator started taking another look at the Skakels.

With the focus back on his family, Rushton Skakel did something extraordinary: He tried to clear the family name.

He hired his own team of investigators to look into Martha's death, and their results became known as the Sutton Report. The key findings focused on Littleton as well as Tommy and Michael Skakel. But the effort backfired after the report, for the first time ever, pointed a finger at Michael.

“Michael lied to the police,” says Levitt. “Michael's story was he's gone to the Terrians, he comes home at 11.30 p.m. and then he goes right to bed.”

But, he told Sutton investigators that it was not all he did that night. Around midnight, Michael said he was drunk and wanted to see Martha. He went out, climbed a tree outside Martha’s window, threw stones at the window and then masturbated in a tree. While climbing down, he said he heard voices right around where the crime scene took place, and ran home.

Michael even made a tape recording of that story in a 1997 book proposal for a tell-all biography: “I remember thinking, 'Oh, my God! If I tell anyone I was out that night, they’re going to think I did it.'"

*****

When former L.A. detective Mark Fuhrman was leaked a copy of the Sutton report, he wrote the best seller, "Murder in Greenwich," naming Michael as Martha’s killer.

“Michael Skakel puts himself at the crime scene, and Michael Skakel makes admissions that only a murderer would make,” says Fuhrman.

Just one month later, in June 1998, prosecutor Jonathon Benedict called for a special grand jury to hear evidence about the case. The grand jury heard some explosive testimony, much of it from Michael's former classmates at the Elan Reform School. Several of them also dropped a bombshell -- that Michael had confessed to killing Martha.

"The first words he ever said to me was, 'I'm going to get away with murder. I'm a Kennedy,'" says former Elan student Greg Coleman. “He made advances to her, and she rejected his advance. He drove her skull in with a golf club."

In January 2000, after hearing testimony from several Elan students and others, the grand jury indicted Michael for the murder of Martha Moxley.

When Michael finally went to trial, the rest of his family was convinced he would be found not guilty. After all, Michael had an airtight alibi, and there wasn't a single shred of physical or forensic evidence that linked him to the crime. His brother, David, thought that finally the family name would be cleared once and for all.

“We were worried that without a trial we could never fully get closure in clearing his reputation,” says David. But when the jury returned their guilty verdict, the Skakel family was left shocked and devastated.

“It’s a feeling of disbelief,” says Stephen. “I love my brother and I believe in my brother 100 percent.”

And just this past week, the bombshell broke. "On the night of the murder, they picked up a golf club or some clubs from the Skakel yard ... and that they were going to get a girl, caveman style," says Kennedy.

*****

For nearly a year and a half now, Stephen Skakel spends every Saturday morning driving 60 miles from his home to Cheshire, Conn., to visit his older brother Michael in prison.

“Being able to see him face-to-face makes all the difference,” he says. “To let him know we’re still here and still fighting for him.”

At 37, Stephen is the youngest of the Skakel children. He was just 9 years old when Martha Moxley was murdered. Since the conviction, he has taken the lead in the fight to clear Michael and the Skakel family name: “There’s only so much people can take, and we’ve taken it for 30 years.”

Even more outspoken, however, is Skakel’s cousin, Robert Kennedy Jr.

“He doesn’t deserve to be spending 20 years of his life in jail for a crime he didn’t commit,” says Kennedy.

Although they were not close as kids, as adults, Bobby Kennedy Jr. and Michael Skakel shared a similar history – problems with addiction. Kennedy says he became close to Michael in 1983, when he first got sober. By then, Michael had already been sober for a year or two.

“I spent a lot of time with him, and we had a very, very strong relationship,” remembers Kennedy.

Kennedy spent six months investigating what he says were flaws in the prosecution's case against Skakel for the Atlantic Monthly article. He says he wrote the article for Michael’s son, Georgie: “He’s going to grow up with most people in this country thinking that his father murdered a girl, and he didn’t do it.”

*****

Kennedy says he received hundreds of letters after the article. One was from Crawford Mills, a classmate of Skakel's who told Kennedy that a friend, Tony Bryant, knew who killed Martha Moxley.

Bryant was one of the first African American students at Brunswick. Kennedy knew this could be a bombshell and located Bryant, now a businessman living in Florida.

"Tony's story has a lot of credibility and a lot of credence," says Kennedy.

Bryant told Kennedy that he was with two friends from the Bronx in Greenwich, Conn., on the night that Martha died. He said they went to Greenwich on several occasions, and that one friend became obsessed with Martha.

Bryant said his friends had a plan. They picked up golf clubs from the Skakel's yard.

"They said that they were going to go out and get a girl caveman style," says Kennedy. "And that Tony understood that girl to be Martha Moxley."

Bryant said he wanted no part of their plan and left. But when he read in the newspapers what had happened to Martha Moxley, he feared the worst.

"They never actually said that they had killed Martha Moxley. What Tony said to me - that he made it clear to them that he didn't want to hear about the details of what happened that night," says Kennedy. "But that they were in some ways boastful about it and were kind of egging him on to inquire to them about the details. They would say things like 'We accomplished our mission' and 'We did it.'"

*****

So why would he wait 28 years, until Skakel was convicted, to tell his story?

"What he said was that his mother, that he told his story immediately to his mother, that his mother urged him not to talk about it publicly," says Kennedy. "That was prompted by her fear that as a young, black man in Greenwich, he would be a target for prosecution."

Bryant denies any involvement in the crime. But when Kennedy located the two friends, he said neither of them seemed like they had anything to hide.

"I asked them to confirm some of the basic information, that I had heard that they were friends of Tony, that they had been to Greenwich with him on several occasions" says Kennedy, who received confirmation from the two men.

Kennedy didn't, however, ask them if they had anything to do with Martha's murder. But since the news broke this week, both men are well aware of the accusations against them, and have denied any involvement in the murder.

For his part, Tony Bryant admits he has a past conviction for burglary, and later had to shut down his company amid allegations of bad business practices.

Still, Skakel's legal team plans to see a new trial based on Bryant's story. And Kennedy remains steadfast: "Somebody decided that a Skakel was going to go to jail, and that all of the other evidence, the abundant evidence against other people, were going to be ignored."

*****

Kennedy now says these new developments support his arguments put forth in his original article - that the prosecution simply had the wrong man.

"The strongest piece of evidence is that Michael has an alibi," says Kennedy.

Skakel's alibi - that he was across town watching "Monty Python" when the murder occurred - has always been supported by several relatives, including his brother John.

“I took a lie detector test in which I was asked who was in the car that went to my cousins, the Terrians, who live about eight miles away,” remembers brother John, who says he convincingly passed the test. “And Michael was, in fact, in the car. That was my response.”

John’s 1975 polygraph results, however, were inadmissible in court. What was allowed into the trial, though, was the damaging testimony of two former Elan students: Greg Coleman and John Higgins.

The prosecution contended that 17-year-old Michael openly talked about the murder while attending the Elan school, where he was sent because of a 1978 drunk driving incident.

“Greg Coleman testified that he had heard Michael confess to having murdered Martha Moxley 5 or 6 times,” says Kennedy. “But when he came up in front of the preliminary hearing, Greg Coleman testified that Michael had only confessed to him once or twice.”

When Michael’s defense attorney, Mickey Sherman, asked Coleman why he had changed his story, Coleman admitted that prior to facing the grand jury, he had taken 25 bags of heroin. Coleman died of a drug overdose just before the trial. But a tape of his previous testimony was played for the jury.

Higgins, who Kennedy said was an Elan bully who tortured Michael at school, testified at the trial. Higgins, who refused our request for an interview, said Michael had also confessed to him.

"I think Michael could have gotten better representation," says Kennedy.

However, the worst day of all for the Skakel family and Sherman was the day of closing arguments.

“The prosecutors in the case used a very, very sophisticated multimedia technique at the end of the trial,” says Kennedy.

Prosecutor Jonathan Benedict transcribed and played Michael’s own words from his book proposal over gory photographs from the crime scene. “We needed to connect the dots and that’s what I did,” says Benedict.

The problem, says Kennedy, was that Michael was talking about being seen masturbating, not committing murder. “His tape-recorded words were used out of context by the prosecutor to imply that he was confessing to the crime. That multimedia display really convicted Michael in the end.”

*****

Before the most recent new information, the family was convinced that the family tutor, Ken Littleton, should have been looked at more closely. Littleton’s very first day on the job also happened to be the day Martha Moxley was murdered.

“He was rather an aloof individual,” remembers Stephen. “The first thing that stood out for me was his size. The guy was in good shape.”

At the time of the murder, both Littleton and Tommy Skakel said they were watching a movie together. But Kennedy says there were some inconsistencies in Littleton’s story.

“The accounts by various people of when certain things happened give enough leeway that Kenny Littleton could have been outside of the house at 10 o’clock,” says Kennedy.

"I wrack my brains as to what else is out there that we don't have," says Stephen.

What the Skakels now have, however, is hope. Tony Bryant has given a 90 minute deposition on videotape confirming what he told Kennedy. Defense investigators have also talked to the two men.

But why wasn't any of this new information known before the trial?

*****

Part III: Defense Seeks New Trial

(CBS) To Robert Kennedy Jr., the conviction of Michael Skakel was a miscarriage of justice: “This was the easiest case in the world to win. Reasonable doubt was all over the place.”

But it turns out that Tony Bryant's story was known even before the trial began.

Remember Crawford Mills? He says he first took the information to the prosecutor's office and Michael Skakel's trial attorney just before the trial.

"The prosecutor told him to get lost," says Kennedy. "They weren't interested in pursuing the new evidence."

Prosecutor Jonathan Benedict declined to talk about the new developments. But he told 48 Hours in April that he thought the trial was fair and appropriate. He also said that Kennedy’s article was wrong on all fronts – especially his attack on Littleton.

“He’s been diagnosed with having bipolar disorder,” adds Gene Riccio, Littleton’s attorney. “He’s had a number of hospitalizations. He’s a nice man who’s troubled and had a great deal of difficulty in his life ... I think arguments made that Mr. Littleton is responsible for this homicide are ridiculous.”

*****

Michael Skakel’s murder trial began on May 7, 2002. Benedict immediately went after Skakel’s alibi, which put him at his cousin’s house eight miles away at the time of the murder. For years, this alibi had never been in dispute, but Benedict began tearing it down by questioning a Skakel family friend - Andrea Shakespeare.

Shakespeare was one of the witnesses from the neighborhood on the night of the murder who was certain that Skakel never took that alibi ride. In her testimony, when asked if Michael had gone to his cousin’s that night, she replied he did not.

Benedict continued to attack Michael’s alibi – this time, using Michael’s own brother, John.

“He was considered to be the most credible alibi witness for Michael Skakel,” says Benedict. “But a funny thing happened over the years. When John came before the grand jury, he changed his story to this - he really didn’t have any recall of who went to the Terrians' house and who didn’t.”

Benedict may have succeeded in discrediting the alibi, but ultimately, he says Michael did himself in.

“The truth of the matter is that Michael Skakel couldn’t keep his mouth shut for a quarter of a century,” says Benedict, referring to those Elan students and others that Michael supposedly confessed to over the years.

“We presented 13 separate people who had separate conversations in separate venues with Michael Skakel, all of which were either out-and-out confessions or at least incriminating admissions by him. That’s how you try a circumstantial case. You put a bunch of facts together.”

But what Sherman failed to anticipate was the impact of Benedict’s closing argument.

“I don’t know if the Skakel family realized how many persuasive dots I had to connect,” says Benedict.

Up until that point, both sides thought Michael might be acquitted. “There were days when I thought ‘Oh, this is just never going to happen. This is just looking very bleak.’”

Benedict played a critical passage from Michael’s own book proposal to sum up his case. But the passage he used was edited in such a way that what the jury heard appeared to be a confession to murder: “And I woke up to Mrs. Moxley saying ‘Michael, have you seen Martha?’ I was like ‘Oh, my God! Did they see me last night?’ I just remember having a feeling of panic'."

But here is what Benedict intentionally left out: “And I remember thinking, 'Oh, my God! I hope nobody saw me jerking off.' And I woke up to Mrs. Moxley saying, 'Michael, have you seen Martha?' I was like, 'Oh, my God! Did they see me last night?'"

In August 2002, Michael Skakel was sentenced to 20 years to life for the murder.

Jeanine Pirro, a former judge and now New York's Westchester County district attorney, believes the chances of getting a new trial may be very good.

But she also says, "You have to look with some skepticism at a claim of knowing who the murderers are in a case where the people have agonized for almost three decades, and wonder what it is that brings you now to the public arena. Why did you not report this?"

There's also the question about Tony Bryant's criminal past - and other hurdles for the defense team. "This is all about weighing that delicate balance," says Pirro. "Do we open up the trial if we don't think there's any possibility of the verdict being changed?"

That's the dilemma the judge who presided over Skakel's original trial will soon face. "It's not beyond the realm of possibility for the DA to say we are going to look at this again," says Pirro. "No one wants someone who is innocent, wrongly convicted."

*****

Dorthy Moxley’s only daughter, Martha, would have turned 43 this year. “It doesn’t end. It really doesn’t end," she says. "Once you’re a victim, being a victim is just part of you forever.”

And while Bobby Kennedy understands her loss, he is steadfast: “I know he’s innocent. I know he’s innocent.”

“A skillful prosecutor can often put people in jail who are not guilty of a crime, and this occurs most often in cases involving notorious crimes or heinous crimes.”

At the same time, Skakel's attorneys are trying for a new trial. They continue to appeal his conviction. Among their claims: Michael should not have been tried as an adult for a crime committed when he was 15.

And, they also argue that Benedict’s multimedia closing argument deliberately misrepresented facts. The appeal will be heard this fall. Meanwhile, Michael’s family visits him regularly.

“He’s had a rough time in prison,” says Kennedy, who says the stress of prison is obvious. “I think the prison administration has given him a very hard time. He’s lost his teeth and he’s been told by the prison administration that he won’t be able to see a dentist for at least six months.”

As for the Skakels, they say this ordeal has actually made their family stronger.

“The positives are that we’re a lot closer together as siblings,” says John.

“What keeps me going is the hope that we’re going to get him out of jail back with his son,” says Stephen. “And not only clear his name, but all of our names.”

“It’s out there now,” says Kennedy. “I’ve done everything that I can do to tell the truth. And the result ultimately is in God’s hands, like everything else in life.”

*****

Michael Skakel's attorney, Hope Seeley, tells 48 Hours that she plans to file her motion for a new trial by the end of September.

Right now, Skakel's murder sentence runs until 2022 - with his first chance of parole at least 10 years away.

Skakel's wife has divorced him and she has custody of their 4-year-old son, George.

As for the Moxley family, Dorthy says she'd rather not talk about these latest developments until the motion for a new trial has been filed. But she says it's not the first time Skakel's lawyers have pointed the fingers at other suspects.

CBS Broadcasting Inc.


Kennedy cousin convicted of 1975 murder of Martha Moxley

June 7, 2002

NORWALK, Conn. — Twenty-four years after he allegedly told a reform school classmate, "I am going to get away with murder. I am a Kennedy," the 41-year-old nephew of Ethel Kennedy was convicted Friday of the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley.

Michael Skakel, standing with his hands clasped behind his back, winced and shifted his feet slightly when the jury foreman announced the verdict at 10:55 a.m. A gasp arose from the gallery. Skakel's brother David sobbed quietly.

After the verdict was read, the judge asked the defense if they wished to comment.

"I'd like to say something," Skakel said. But Skakel's lawyer, Mickey Sherman, interrupted his client, saying, "No sir."

The defendant was taken into custody immediately following the verdict, which came on the jury's fourth day of deliberations. Skakel faces up to life in prison, but could get at as few as 10 years, when he is sentenced July 19.

Martha's mother, Dorthy Moxley, also cried softly when the verdict was read, but she was beaming as she left the courtroom at the same time as Skakel was being led out in handcuffs. She hugged her son John and former detective Mark Fuhrman, who wrote a book about the case implicating Skakel in the killing.

Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse, a tearful but smiling Dorthy Moxley said it was "truly Martha's day."

"Again today like I've been doing for 27 years, I was praying that I can find justice for Martha. This whole thing was about Martha," Moxley said.

Martha's brother's John expressed his gratitude to the jurors, judge and prosecution team, but acknowledged that the verdict was bittersweet. "It's not going to bring Martha back," he said.

27 years later

On Halloween in 1975, Martha's body was discovered lying beneath a pine tree on her parent's property in Belle Haven, an affluent neighborhood in the affluent shoreline community of Greenwich, Conn. Although her pants and underwear had been pulled down to her ankles, an autopsy determined that she had not been sexually assaulted.

The discovery of pieces of a broken Toney Penna six-iron led investigators quickly to the home of Rushton Skakel Sr., whose late wife owned a set of Pennas. For years, police believed that Michael Skakel's older brother by two years, Thomas Skakel, killed Martha near her own driveway and then dragged the body under a nearby pine tree where it was found.

After investigators failed to convince a prosecutor that they had probable cause to charge Thomas Skakel, the focus of the investigation shifted somewhat to Kenneth Littleton, the Skakel family's tutor who started work on the night of the murder.

In 1992, investigators convinced Littleton's ex-wife, Mary Baker, to meet him in a Boston hotel room to try to get him to implicate himself on tape. As police monitored the conversation from another room, Baker tried for two hours to get Littleton to confess by insisting that the couple had no chance of reconciling unless he told her the "big secret" he had alluded to during their marriage.

Littleton did not confess to Baker, and the investigation went back into neutral for another five years.

Finally, in 1998 prosecutor Jonathan Benedict successfully sought the appointment of a one-judge grand jury to issue subpoenas and take testimony from 53 witnesses. Many of the witnesses were former residents and staff at Elan, a reform school for troubled teenagers in Maine.

Michael Skakel was 17 years old when he was forced by his family to attend Elan. Prosecutors contended that Skakel was sent there to hide from investigators on the Moxley case, but Skakel insists he was enrolled at Elan because he developed a drinking problem following the death of his mother from cancer in 1973.

Two Elan witnesses, John Higgins and Gregory Coleman, claimed that Skakel confessed to killing Martha with a golf club. Higgins testified during the trial. Coleman, however, died of a heroin overdose last year and jurors had to settle for a transcript of his pretrial testimony.

Coleman, who was 39 when he died, testified then that, after Coleman mentioned that Skakel seemed to be treated differently at Elan, Skakel responded, "I am going to get away with murder. I am a Kennedy."

Prosecutors called nearly 40 witnesses for its largely circumstantial case against Skakel. The defense called 15 witnesses, including several relatives of the defendant who placed him across town at about the time that police long believed that the murder was committed.

The defense based its case largely on an alibi for Skakel, who claimed to be across town at his cousin's house during the time a medical examiner hired by police estimated Martha was killed. The cousin, James Dowdle, testified that Skakel was with him at his home watching the premiere of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and hanging out until about 10:50. Forensic pathologist Joseph Jachimczyk testified that Martha was probably killed at about 10 p.m., but he conceded he could be off by much as an hour.

Skakel's alibi was damaged, however, by his own words and those of other witnesses. Skakel's own sister Julie offered conflicting accounts of when Skakel had left his own home to drive to his cousin's, and prosecutors contended that Martha could have been killed much later than the coroner's estimate.

Skakel did not testify himself but jurors heard a 1997 tape recording he made in anticipation of writing a book about his life as a cousin of the Kennedys. On the tape, Skakel placed himself at the crime scene on the night of the murder. He said he was masturbating in a tree outside Martha Moxley's bedroom window.

Prosecutors argued that Skakel probably did masturbate near Martha's body after he killed her. Skakel likely began telling people the bizarre story about climbing a tree and masturbating in an effort to explain any genetic identification of him as the killer once the science really came into its own in the early 1990s.

Police never found the handle of the murder weapon, but they believe that if the handle had been found, the grip would have shown that the club belonged to Skakel's mother.

Jurors apparently accepted the prosecution's theory that Michael Skakel snapped during a night of drinking and killed Martha because he became enraged that she was showing more interest in his brother, Thomas.

Crime scene evidence indicated that Martha was initially struck with a golf club near her own driveway but somehow staggered a short distance before more blows were delivered. Her body was then dragged through the grass — both face up and face down at times — until it was finally placed beneath the low-hanging branches of a pine tree.

"Justice can take a long time sometimes, but it's certainly worth the effort," said prosecutor Benedict after the verdict. "It's really worth going for."

After the verdict

Speaking outside the courthouse, Skakel's lawyer said he still believes strongly in his client's innocence and plans to continue the case. "As long as there is a breath in my body this case is not over," Sherman said.

Skakel's brother David also maintained his brother's innocence and vowed to stand by him. "For us this trial has felt like a witch hunt. Our family remains more resolute than ever."

A court officer said later that Skakel, waiting inside the courthouse, was composed, but sweating profusely shortly after the verdict. He did not speak, the officer said, other than to ask permission to give his neck tie to one of his brothers.

Word that a verdict had been reached filtered out quickly throughout downtown Norwalk. A number of students from a bartending school located in a strip mall across the street from the courthouse joined a group of about 50 non-media spectators to listen to press conferences.

One of them, 21-year-old Chris Cladis, of Darien, Conn., said he was sure Skakel was guilty but was not as sure that he'd be convicted. "I was glad to see he was guilty. It seems like wealthy people are getting off," Cladis said. "I think this is a good thing. It was pretty clear that he was guilty, but I thought he was going to get away with it."

Standing behind a row of media tents that obscured their view of a live press conference by the prosecution team, authors Dominick Dunne and Timothy Dumas embraced each other and the verdict. "I can't believe it. I can't believe it," said Dunne, author of "A Season in Purgatory," a novel that used made-up names and a baseball bat instead of a golf club to tell the story of the Skakels and the Moxleys.

"I'm not jumping up and down with happiness that Michael was put in shackles in front of everyone," Dunne said. "My happiness is for Dorthy Moxley, the exceptional and wonderful woman who I have so much respect and admiration for. She has kept this alive."

Dumas' nonfiction book, "Greentown," was published just months before prosecutors empanelled a one-judge grand jury in 1998. The former Greenwich newspaper reporter said he believed that the second half of Benedict's closing argument on Monday brought the conviction despite the absence of physical evidence and the passage of 26 years. On Thursday, the jury had requested to rehear that portion of Benedict's closing, although Judge John Kavanewsky denied the request.

"There seemed to be a growing sense among everyone in the courtroom that this was going to come back guilty. It was a sensory thing," Dumas said. "If you take the closing away from the prosecution, there's no way there is a conviction. It was just absolutely good.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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