Michael Skakel Sues Nancy Grace for Libel

Michael Skakel, whose parole hearing is today, has filed a libel suit against Nancy Grace, Tru-TV host Beth Karas, Time Warner and Turner Broadcasting, for falsely stating evidence of Michael Skakel's DNA was found near the scene of the crime.

In the segment, "Kennedy Cousin Asks Judge for Shorter Jail Time," Grace asks Karas if Skakel was masturbating in a tree near Moxley's window. Karas responds: "His DNA was found."

The lawsuit says that both Grace and Karas "are thoroughly familiar" with the fact that there was no DNA evidence linking Skakel to the Moxley murder.

Here's the video. Karas says his DNA was found and Nancy reminds her it was semen. Henry Lee testified at the trial that there was no direct evidence, no DNA, no semen:

Henry C. Lee, the former head of the Connecticut State Police and a renowned forensic criminologist, testified today that state prosecutors have no direct scientific evidence, like fingerprints or DNA, to connect Michael C. Skakel to the 1975 killing of Martha Moxley.


At trial, on direct examination by the proseutor, Dr. Lee testified he conducted a complete review of the state's evidence in the 1980's when he did a partial reconstruction of the crime scene:

''In this particular case, no foreign blood was found, no semen was found,'' Dr. Lee said. He also said no identifiable DNA was found in scrapings from under the victim's fingernails. Later, under cross-examination by the defense, he added, ''I don't have direct evidence.''

More on Lee's testimony here.

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  • Display: Sort:
    I wish someone would sue that disgraceful (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Slayersrezo on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 08:04:54 AM EST
    person into oblivion.

    I suppose one can dream.

    Interesting (none / 0) (#2)
    by Lacy on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 08:27:57 AM EST
    I seem to recall that Skakel made a statement long after the crime that he had masturbated in or under a tree on the Moxley property, and there was a theory that he might have been laying the groundwork in case DNA was found in or near the crime scene.

    hmmm... (none / 0) (#3)
    by sj on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 09:47:17 AM EST
    I think maybe a recollection like that may be better served by providing a link.

    I recall no such thing but I didn't follow this trial very closely.


    I remember (none / 0) (#4)
    by DebFrmHell on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 10:54:05 AM EST
    it, too, but I will look for a link.

    From May 2002...  It came from two witness for the Prosecution.
    url=Football Star's Son Stirs Up Skakel Case[/url]

    ...Those witnesses included Michael Meredith, son of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith, who said Skakel told him the masturbation story during the summer of 1987. Meredith, who did not testify during any of the previous hearings, is the first witness to date the masturbation story earlier than 1991, when Skakel himself told it to private investigators hired by his family "to clear their name," as one witness characterized the effort....

    thanks (none / 0) (#8)
    by sj on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 12:48:13 PM EST
    Ummm (none / 0) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 10:56:07 AM EST
    The point of this suit is? A retraction?

    Doesn't appear to be a winner. (none / 0) (#6)
    by oculus on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 11:02:15 AM EST
    why not? The statements (none / 0) (#9)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 01:00:45 PM EST
    about there being DNA evidence was false.

    So a retraction? (none / 0) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 01:04:06 PM EST
    Here's the best I can come up (none / 0) (#12)
    by oculus on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 02:32:12 PM EST

    ciminal defendant as "limited public figure

    i.e., plaintiff must prove malice.  


    damages? (none / 0) (#15)
    by diogenes on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 05:15:54 PM EST
    If Michael Skakel is a convicted murderer already spending decades in prison, what additional monetary damages to his reputation and earning ability does this statement (even if libelous) convey even if it is false?    

    he had just filed a motion for sentence (none / 0) (#16)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 05:59:40 PM EST
    reduction. It was denied in March, 2012. He also has a habeas in the works.

    They are asking for punitive damages because Grace and Karras covered the trial and were well aware there is no DNA.

    I haven't seen the complaint since it's in stste court and not on PACER but rest assured his lawyers wouldn't have filed the case without grounds. Whether they win is another issue, but his lawyers are highly experienced and ethical and would not have filed a baseless claim.


    I hope he wins that (none / 0) (#7)
    by brodie on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 11:41:45 AM EST
    suit and more importantly gets parole after serving a decade in prison for a crime he didn't commit, from my ankle-deep reading of the case.

    I'm not sure also why he didn't get a more robust legal defense at his trial.  More than 20 yo case, no DNA or other physical evidence directly tying him to the crime, lots of dubious prosecution witnesses from the dubious Elan school, attention-seeking amateur media prosecutors like Mark Fuhrman and Dominick Dunne clearly trying to try and prejudge the case against Michael Skakel on tv, the failure to legally challenge the issue of the then-existing 5-year statute of limitations on murder in CT, and other items.

    And was Skakel's lawyer at trial a little friendly on the side with Dunne?

    he got a very robust defense (none / 0) (#11)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 01:23:24 PM EST
    I think his lawyer (who was then and is now a close personal friend of mine) did an excellent job. The statute of limitations argument was raised and denied in both the juvenile and trial court. And appealed and denied. Skakel was very happy with his defense until the verdict. His lawyer vigorously objected to the introduction of the dead addict's testimony, challenged the veracity of the other Elan witnesses, raised all the reasonable doubt issues based on the lack of physical evidence and issues regarding other suspects, including the tutor and brother Tommy. He presented alibi witnesses for Michael for the night of the murder.

    What he couldn't overcome was the overwhelming sympathy for the Moxley family and the prejudicial media storm created by Fuhrman and Dunne. And the prejudicial effect of the prosecutor's closing argument.

    Since I don't allow attacks on my personal friends on Talkleft, please refrain from making them. Especially when they contain false information.

    Many defendants raise ineffective assistance of counsel after losing their direct appeal. It's one of the few avenues of relief still open to them.


    Don't worry (none / 0) (#13)
    by brodie on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 02:50:17 PM EST
    I won't comment further on the lawyering angle.  People can research for themselves what an appallingly slender and prejudiced a case it was against M Skakel, and can find out who the obvious two non family suspects were, one of whom survived til trial but was then granted full immunity by the prosecution to testify against the defendant.  By all I've read that immunized person is the one by far who should have been on trial.

    Any chance he was convicted... (none / 0) (#17)
    by unitron on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 09:00:04 PM EST
    ...as a way to show displeasure with William Kennedy Smith's acquittal?