State prosecutors will be appealing a judge’s stunning decision to order a new trial for convicted killer Michael Skakel in the 1975 death of Greenwich teenager Martha Moxley.
A jury convicted Skakel in June 2002 after a lengthy, high-profile trial that generated attention around the country because Skakel is related to the Kennedy family. Skakel’s aunt, Ethel, married Robert F. Kennedy in 1950 in her hometown of Greenwich – within miles of the murder scene.
But a veteran judge, Thomas A. Bishop, overturned the case Wednesday with a detailed, biting decision that said that Skakel’s attorney, Mickey Sherman, performed so badly that Skakel deserves a new trial. Bishop is a veteran judge who was nominated for the Superior Court in 1994 by Gov. Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. and approved by the legislature before later becoming a member of the State Appellate Court.
The prosecution’s appeal of the habeas corpus ruling will go to the Appellate Court, where a panel of judges will decide Skakel’s fate. The state Supreme Court had previously upheld his conviction by the jury.
In another move, prosecutors will seek to block the defense’s request for bail, which would allow Skakel to be released from prison for the first time in more than 10 years.
The prosecution released the following statement:
“Attorney Michael Sherman devoted four years and thousands of hours to Skakel’s defense. His preparation included countless hours seeking out and interviewing witnesses, consulting with experts, researching legal issues, reviewing the enormous amount of discovery provided by the state, and using legal means to block the state’s access to incriminating evidence. He prosecuted two pre-trial appeals. Attorney Sherman used his judgment, developed over his more than three decades as a criminal defense attorney, to make strategic decisions.”
The statement continued, “Attorney Sherman presented a defense based on a three-fold strategy: attacking the state’s evidence, presenting an alibi, and presenting a third party culpability defense. This strategy failed not because of any flaw in Sherman’s representation but because of the strength of the state’s evidence.”
Prosecutor John Smriga added, “The state’s case relied on Michael Skakel’s uncontested connection to the murder weapon, strong evidence of motive, substantial evidence of consciousness of guilt, nearly a dozen incriminating admissions and three unequivocal confessions.”