Skakel: What Went Wrong

As to last week's conviction and 20 year sentence imposed on Michael Skakel for the murder of Martha Moxley that occurred in 1975 when they were both 15, we previously told you we have been following and commenting on the case for the past four years, ever since the investigation was reopened with Michael Skakel as the chief suspect.

"We attended a day of the trial and we know the defense attorney Mickey Sherman well. He did a great job at trial. The media on the whole predicted an acquittal because there was little physical or forensic evidence, no dna, no witnesses to the crime. And there were plenty of other suspects. So what went wrong?"

The answer could, and undoubtedly will, fill a book. But it is not one that we will write, even though we regularly discussed the case with the defense team , read the pleadings and familiarized ourselves with the evidence. The trial is over, Michael is in jail awaiting the outcome of his future appeals.

We have our doubts that there is anything to be gained now by re-iterating that the evidence in the case came from an unreliable, dead drug addict who waited 20 years before coming forward with his story about Michael having told him he could get away with murder because he was a Kennedy, and then came forward to the media, not the police, and then who acknowledged at a pre-trial hearing he was high on heroin at the time of his grand jury testimony, that his memory wasn't trustworthy and who was dead of a drug overdose by the time of trial so he wasn't able to be cross-examined (while his prior testimony was orally read to the jury by the lawyers role-playing the parts of questioner and witness as the transcript of his testimony was rolled on the giant overhead screen like it was a movie--really, we were there that day).... from a former suspect (the tutor) who had been granted immunity...and from other similarly unreliable witnesses whose testimony of purported confessions was disputed by other witnesses....

Or from our repeating the evidence the jury didn't hear...like that former long-time suspect and brother Tommy also changed his story years after the murder in his discussions with Skakel-family private investigators to say that the night Martha was killed he and Martha had been mutually masturbating on the ground under the tree her body was found ...see the many news articles on the topic by Newsday writer Len Leavitt who broke the story years ago...still available on Lexis (search the database "news two years and beyond")...or read other articles referencing same currently on Court TV....

Or even from again pointing to the strong support for the defense contention that this jury did not decide the case based on the evidence presented and refuted, but on their sympathy for Dorothy Moxley (whom we agree is one classy and admirable woman, although we think she is mistaken in her belief as to who murdered her daughter) and on their dislike for the well-known Skakel/Kennedy families. Not to mention the overwhelming pre-trial publicity in Connecticut largely resulting from the recent publication of books by celebrity novelist Dominick Dunne, himself the father of a slain daughter, and former O.J. cop Mark Fuhrman, proclaiming Skakel to be the murderer.

The appeals process will play out. Skakel should never have been tried in adult court --the law in effect in 1975 precluded same--and his trial and conviction are contrary to the five year statute of limitations in effect at that time.

Skakel was a troubled kid. He had an alibi. The prosecution never proved the time of death. They didn't even try, instead opting for a range of between 9:30 pm and the middle of the night. Expert defense testimony, coming from experts originally hired by the prosecution, established the time of death around 9:30 pm--when Michael was at his cousin's house. Witness testimony was presented about unusually excessive and prolonged dog barking also occurring at this time. Defense witnesses testified to Michael's alibi. Michael's taped statement in his own voice in which he denied committing the murder was played to the jury.

Yet, despite the paltry lack of credible evidence and the lack of any physical, forensic or DNA evidence linking Michael to the murder, the jury convicted.

Bottom line: Mickey Sherman tried a great case. Juries are unpredictable. And Michael Skakel may be a victim of the still unsolved murder as well.

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