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Report: Michael Skakel Conviction Upheld

The decision won't be out until tomorrow, but Dorothy Moxley, mother of Martha Moxley, tells the Associated Press that prosecutors called her to tell her the Connecticut Supreme Court has rejected Michel Skakel's appeal.

Skakel's trial lawyer, Mickey Sherman, who did not represent Skakel in the appeal, said it's news to him.

"Nothing will ever change my opinion that an innocent man is in jail," he said. "He's simply not guilty."

Skakel was 15 at the time Martha Moxley was murdered. Had he been charged in 1977 when the murder occurred, he would have been tried in juvenile court and if convicted, received a sentence of no more than two years. That's how juveniles were treated back then in Connecticut.

Had Skakel not been related to the Kennedys, he probably never would have been charged and I doubt he would have been convicted.

From my earlier take on the case.

The evidence in the case came from:

  • an unreliable, dead drug addict who waited 20 years before coming forward with a story about Michael Skakel having told him he could get away with murder because he was a Kennedy. When he did come forward, he went to the media, not the police.

At a pre-trial hearing, he acknowledged he was high on heroin at the time of his grand jury testimony and that his memory wasn't trustworthy. By the time trial came around, he had died of a drug overdose so he wasn't able to be cross-examined. But the Court allowed his earlier testimony to be read to the jury.

I happened to be attending the trial that day. Lawyers role-played the parts of questioner and witness as the transcript of the dead drug addict's testimony rolled on the giant overhead screen like it was a movie.

  • A former suspect (the Skakel kids' tutor) who had been granted immunity
  • Other similarly unreliable witnesses whose testimony of purported confessions was disputed by other witnesses

The prosecution harped on Michael's changed story years after the murder, but Michael's brother Tommy who had been the suspect for years, also changed his story years later in his discussions with Skakel-family private investigators to say that the night Martha was killed he (Tommy) and Martha had been mutually masturbating on the ground under the tree her body was found ...See Newsday reporter Len Leavitt's many articles on this.

There was 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.

Skakel should never have been tried in adult court --the law in effect in 1975 precluded it--and his trial and conviction were 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 occurring at this time. Defense witnesses testified to Michael's alibi. Michael's taped statement 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: I have always thought the jury did not decide the case based on the evidence presented and refuted, but on their sympathy for Dorothy Moxley and their dislike for the well-known Skakel/Kennedy families.

[My chronology of news articles on the case from 2002 is here; 2001 is here. TalkLeft coverage is here.]

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  • Re: Report: Michael Skakel Conviction Upheld (none / 0) (#1)
    by aw on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 09:52:55 PM EST
    I have no take on this, but I'm sure you'll get a number of comments because it's a Kennedy relative. Righties: GUILTY because he's a Kennedy.

    Re: Report: Michael Skakel Conviction Upheld (none / 0) (#2)
    by Slado on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 08:36:55 AM EST
    I'm a righty and I think he's guilty because he was convicted. I also don't care. If he's not guilty let him prove it in court. If he is guilty he's getting what he deserves. The presumption of innocence ends when you are convicted.

    Re: Report: Michael Skakel Conviction Upheld (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 12:15:34 PM EST
    slado:
    I'm a righty and I think he's guilty because he was convicted. I also don't care.
    With that mindset, the fact that a certain percentage of all convictions are later proved to have been in error is obviously irrelevant to you. So why then are you posting in a thread discussing the possibility of an incorrect conviction? Most people who have no interest in a subject don't post messages saying in effect "I am not interested in this discussion".

    Re: Report: Michael Skakel Conviction Upheld (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 07:10:12 AM EST
    You note Tommy Skakel's change of story as if it were something the jury could have taken into account. But it was Michael himself who blocked that information from being presented, not the prosecution. You also write that no forensic evidence linked Michael to the crime. The golf club that killed Martha was sister to a club found in the Skakel family mudroom, a hallway really that was outside John Skakel's bedroom. John testified that he heard a noise outside his bedroom at 11:33 the night of the murder, which was pretty much the same time Michael claimed to have gone out on the late night excursion he has lied to police. Jurors, it appears, did not accept this prosecution theory of the murder. They appear, instead, to have accepted the defense's time of death and rejected the defense's alibi. So while it may be possible to find political elements somewhere in this trial, I think the trial's predominent feature was that of an "own goal." As juror Bill Smith noted after the verdict, "At the end of the prosecution's case, if the defense had rested, I don't know where I would have been."

    Re: Report: Michael Skakel Conviction Upheld (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 10:13:47 AM EST
    Thanks for posting that for me inmyhumbleopinion. Evidently, it is the coding of the post and adding the urls which triggers some sort of post screening. (Why, after ten days, my original post has not shown up however is a bit boggling.) Any interested readers can find the reference and source materials for the above post by googling CAMPy Skakel and visiting the "General Discussion" forum.

    Re: Report: Michael Skakel Conviction Upheld (none / 0) (#6)
    by inmyhumbleopinion on Tue Mar 21, 2006 at 02:27:14 PM EST
    Tiger829 had difficulties posting this. I'll give it a try: QUOTE: Had he been charged in 1977 when the murder occurred, he would have been tried in juvenile court and if convicted, received a sentence of no more than two years. That's how juveniles were treated back then in Connecticut. ___________ Michael Skakel murdered Martha Moxley in 1975, not 1977. To state as "fact" that the case "would have been tried in juvenile court" is misleading, at best. It's not a given. The transfer to adult court fit the law, was argued in a hearing and met the requirements of the law. ********** QUOTE: Had Skakel not been related to the Kennedys, he probably never would have been charged and I doubt he would have been convicted. __________ The connection to a powerful and influential family that some say landed Michael Skakel in prison, is the same connection that others say impeded a more rigorous initial investigation at the time of Martha Moxley's murder in 1975. ********** QUOTE: The evidence in the case came from: an unreliable, dead drug addict who waited 20 years before coming forward with a story about Michael Skakel having told him he could get away with murder because he was a Kennedy. When he did come forward, he went to the media, not the police. A former suspect (the Skakel kids' tutor) who had been granted immunity Other similarly unreliable witnesses whose testimony of purported confessions was disputed by other witnesses. [remainder deleted due to length]

    Re: Report: Michael Skakel Conviction Upheld (none / 0) (#8)
    by inmyhumbleopinion on Tue Mar 21, 2006 at 09:07:12 PM EST
    We don't mind you truncating the post, but you left it less than half the length of Labyrinth13's post. In the interest of equal time, here are 440 more of Tiger's words. Are you simply dismissing the numerous other witnesses who testified at trial? How about the testimony of... - Lawrence Zicarelli (former driver for the Skakel family) - Andy Pugh (Michael's closest friend at the time of Martha's murder) - Andrea Shakespear (Julie Skakel's friend, present at the Skakel home the night of Martha's murder) - Mildred "Cissy" Ix (Aka "Aunt Cissy", next door neighbor to the Skakel's, and Anne Skakel's roommate in college) - - Michael Meredith (Met Michael in 1987, spent that summer at the Skakel home, while they worked together on a class action lawsuit against the Elan School) Oh and, how about, - Julie Skakel, Michael's sister who hollered out after the alibi car had left for Sursum Corda, "Michael, come here!" To assume the jury reached their decision based soley upon the testimony of Gregory Coleman or Ken Littleton is ignore the powerful testimony of many, many other witnesses. **** Michael's changed story, placed himself masturbating in "the" tree (under which Martha's body was later discovered) at the suspected time of Martha's murder. From "Dead Man Talking, A Kennedy Cousin Comes Clean" By Michael Skakel... snip... [snipped again for language, TalkLeft doesn't allow profanity. Please see the commenting rules.]

    Re: Report: Michael Skakel Conviction Upheld (none / 0) (#9)
    by inmyhumbleopinion on Wed Mar 22, 2006 at 09:31:19 PM EST
    Sorry about the profanity. It was in Michael Skakel's quote. I should have know it was against your posting policy and edited it out. [Deleted, please provide a link and do not reprint works at length here. Quote: "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." Michael's alibi did not hold up. On Michael's "airtight" alibi *The GPD believed the word of Michael's brothers and cousin. Only John was polygraphed per the alibi. Was this the same polygraph examiner that Tommy was able to fool? *John no longer even remembers if Michael was in the car going to or coming home from the Terriens. He could only place Tommy and Martha by the back door and Jimmy and Rushie in that car with him when question while under hypnosis in 1992. *Helen Ix said she thought he went, but she did not see the car drive off. She made her 9:30 curfew, it is believed the car left shortly after then. *Julie, yelled "Michael! Come back here!" to the person that ran across the driveway in front of her. This was after the car left for the Terriens. *Andrea Renna testified he did not go to Terreins. [remainder deleted due to length. You have obviously written this out before. Just provide a link in html format and people can read it there.]

    Re: Report: Michael Skakel Conviction Upheld (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Mar 22, 2006 at 09:33:43 PM EST
    I've read every book that has been written about the Moxley murder and while I tend to agree that the evidence against Skakel is not of the "smoking gun" variety, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that tends to make me think he did it. (And for the record, I'm a raging left-wing commie pinko liberal tree hugger who is a huge fan of the Kennedys). I even wrote an article for my website about the case prior to Skakel being charged with the murder in which I point out the following: [text deleted. Please do not reprint your own work here. You can provide a link in html format. See our comment policy.]

    Re: Report: Michael Skakel Conviction Upheld (none / 0) (#10)
    by inmyhumbleopinion on Sat Apr 01, 2006 at 07:26:19 AM EST
    (continued fron the above post) This is the rest of "Michael's alibi did not hold up" *David and Stephen have no way of knowing who went to the Terriens. *Jimmy Terrien/Dowdle's sisters can not alibi Michael. *By John's account, he could see Tommy and Martha together at the back door from inside the car as the car drove off to the Terriens. This would make it likely that Tommy could see Michael sitting next to John as the car drove off (under hypnosis in 1992, John recalled seeing Tommy & Martha, but could not place Michael - who supposedly was sitting next to him - in that car). Though Tommy, perhaps, could have bolstered Michael's alibi, he did not testify before the Grand Jury, or at trial. *That leaves Jimmy Terrien/Dowdle who remembers almost nothing else about that night and the Rush Jr. who in 1976 revealed to Tommy's Dr. that Michael was at home between 10 pm and 1:00 am, while he and John went to the Terriens. This is from the investigative report commisioned by Rushton Skakel Sr. in 1991 "to clear the family name." The Sutton Report commissioned by Rushton Skakel Sr.