Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel’s 1975 murder conviction vacated

2013-11-21 Michael Skakel

The Connecticut Supreme Court has vacated the conviction of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel in a 1975 murder case.

The Hartford Courant reports that the Connecticut Supreme Court voted 4-3 that Skakel’s trial lawyer was so ineffective, that his right to a fair trial was violated. Skakel was convicted in the murder of his friend, Martha Moxley, when the two were neighbors in Greenwich.

Skakel has been free since late 2013 while the court considered this latest appeal. He is expected to remain free unless state prosecutors make what many lawyers predict would be an unlikely decision to retry him on decades-old evidence, the Courant reports. 

News 8 spoke with Robert Kennedy Junior Friday afternoon. Upon hearing the news of the court’s decision, Kennedy expressed his satisfaction. 

“That’s fantastic… It’s been a long hard fight for justice.  Michael Skakel was framed by corrupt prosecutors.  This is his vindication.”

Skakel was convited in 2002 in the murder of Moxley, and was sentenced to 20 years to life. In 2013, he was granted a new trial, and was released on bail.

In December of 2016, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled to reinstate Skakel’s conviction, with it being vacated by the State Supreme Court Friday.

Skakel’s lawyers issued the following statement to News 8:

We are gratified by the Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling today. As the Court has now definitively held, Michael Skakel’s conviction violated his Sixth Amendment constitutional right to counsel. The Supreme Court did the right thing in overturning that conviction.

Mr. Skakel’s trial counsel failed to investigate the key alibi witness who later confirmed that he was far from the Moxley home at the time the murder took place. That failure prevented the jury from fairly considering all of the evidence in Mr. Skakel’s case. When the alibi witness later testified in the post-conviction proceeding, the presiding judge concluded that his testimony supporting Mr. Skakel was “powerful” and “credible.”

As the Connecticut Supreme Court has now recognized in its carefully reasoned, 69-page opinion, Mr. Skakel’s conviction was fundamentally unfair and cannot stand.

Today’s ruling makes clear that Michael Skakel spent 11-and-a-half years unjustly imprisoned in violation of the Constitution.

To be absolutely clear: Michael Skakel is innocent of this crime. We are grateful to Judge Bishop and the Connecticut Supreme Court for correcting this miscarriage of justice.

Hubert J. Santos, Law Offices of Hubert J. Santos
Michael A. Fitzpatrick, Law Offices of Michael A. Fitzpatrick
Roman Martinez, Latham & Watkins LLP
Attorneys for Michael Skakel

Related Links: Connecticut Judicial Branch documents on today’s decision

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