Connecticut Supreme Court Affirms Michael Skakel Conviction
In a 4 to 1 opinion, the Connecticut Supreme Court today upheld the conviction of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel for the murder of Martha Moxley.
The appeal centered on Skakel's theory that two alternate suspects committed the crime. The court said the evidence doesn't support that claim. The majority opinion is here. There is also a concurring opinion, and a dissenting opinion. [More...]
From the Hartford Courant:
Justice Richard N. Palmer dissented broadly, arguing that Skakel deserved a new trial on the basis of statements obtained by Skakel's lawyers from Gitano "Tony" Bryant, a frequent teenage visitor to Greenwich at the time of Moxley's death. Bryant said two of his friends implicated themselves in the bludgeoning.
Palmer also wrote in his dissent that the Bryant evidence could have created reasonable doubt about Skakel's guilt among jurors when considered against another piece of new evidence argued by Skakel's legal team: The relationship between the lead investigator in the case, Frank Garr, and Leonard Levitt, the author of a book about the victim's murder on which Garr collaborated.
Palmer said the views expressed in the book by Garr reflect his "strong and long-standing feelings of antipathy" toward Skakel and members of Skakel's family.
According to the Journal Inquirer:
One unusual twist to today’s decision is that Justice Joette Katz, who wrote the decision against Skakel, is a former public defender, while Justice Richard Palmer, who was the only dissenter, is a former prosecutor.
Skakel still has a habeas appeal pending in federal court over whether the statute of limitations in 1975 when the killing occurred barred his conviction and whether the defense should have been allowed to introduce evidence that "a key prosecution witness lied when he testified during a preliminary court hearing that Skakel confessed to the Moxley killing while attending a program for troubled youths." The witness died before the trial and the trial court allowed his preliminary hearing testimony to be read to the jury. (I attended the trial that day and describe it here.)
Moxley was killed in 1975. Both she and Skakel were 15. Skakel was not charged until 2000. He is serving a 20 year sentence. All of our coverage of the case (strongly criticizing the trial and conviction) is assembled here.
Update: From the dissent, describing the evidence at trial against Skakel and the effect of the new evidence the court refused to consider:
.... the testimony that was used to convict the petitioner... consisted almost entirely of equivocal admissions by the petitioner and one dubious confession that he allegedly had made while he was a student at Elan School, an alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility for troubled adolescents located in Poland, Maine. Moreover, there was no physical evidence connecting the petitioner to the crime and no eyewitnesses.
In light of the relatively weak evidence adduced by the state and the comparative strength of the newly discovered third party culpability evidence, I am convinced that that new evidence, at an absolute minimum, gives rise to a reasonable doubt about whether the petitioner had murdered the victim. I therefore am persuaded that, if the jury had considered the Bryant evidence together with the original trial evidence that it did consider, it is very likely that the verdict would have been different.
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