Michael Skakel’s Murder Conviction is Reinstated by Connecticut Supreme Court

Martha Moxley was just 15 years old in 1975 when she was murdered in Greenwich on Mischief Night, the night before Halloween. The Moxley family lived in Belle Haven, as did Michael Skakel, a nephew of Ethel Skakel Kennedy, the widow of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

Moxley was found face down under a pine tree on her family’s property the following morning. Police found broken pieces of a golf club nearby on the Moxley property.

On Friday, Connecticut Supreme Court reinstated the murder conviction of Michael Skakel, who had appealed based on a claim he had not had adequate representation.

Skakel, who was represented by Michael Sherman, was convicted in 2002 of Moxley’s murder.

At the time, Michael Sherman had practiced criminal law for over thirty years, both as a defense attorney and as a prosecutor.

Skakel who was also 15 at the time of the murder, had lived across the street from Moxley. The night of the murder, Michael Skakel and some of his siblings including his older brother Thomas, had been seem with the victim at various times.

According to the decision published on the Connecticut Supreme Court website, despite efforts in the years after the murder, including extensive investigations into Thomas Skakel and the family tutor Kenneth Littleton, police were unable to connect anyone to the murder and did not make any arrests.

In Skakel vs Commissioner of Correction, with respect to motive, the state argued at trial that Michael Skakel had become enraged after seeing Moxley flirting with his older brother Thomas.

The state also presented evidence that Skakel had lied to the police about his activities on the night of the murder.

Michael Sherman’s strategy, according to the state Supreme Court was threefold: 1) establish an alibi for the time the murder occurred, 2) discredit witnesses claiming Michael Skakel had made statements implicating himself and 3) present evidence showing that the live-in tutor, Kenneth Littleton might have committed the murder.

At the conclusion of Skakel’s criminal trial, the jury found him guilty of murder. He was sentenced to 20 years to life.

Skakel subsequently made several attempts to have his conviction overturned. He appealed the conviction, but the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. He later filed a petition for a new trial on the basis of new evidence, but the petition was denied.

After serving 11 years of the 20 year to life sentence, in 2013, a Superior Court judge ruled that Skakel’s trial was tainted by inadequate representation from attorney Michael Sherman.

Skakel has been free on a $1.2 million bond since winning the new trial.

The Dec. 30, 2016 Supreme Court ruling reversed the 2013 ruling in a vote of 4-3.

The decision was on the grounds that Sherman’s defense strategy was “not deficient” and was “constitutionally adequate.”

Skakel remains out on bond but could be sent back to prison. For now, however, he is a free man.


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