Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel urged the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to refuse to hear an appeal by Connecticut prosecutors seeking to reinstate his murder conviction in the 1975 killing of his teenage neighbor.
Skakel’s lawyer, Roman Martinez, wrote in a 37-page brief that the Connecticut Supreme Court was right when it vacated his client’s murder conviction in May, citing his trial lawyer’s failure to contact a key alibi witness and have him testify before a jury.
“The Connecticut Supreme Court’s 141-page decision overturning Michael Skakel’s conviction was meticulous, fair, and correct,” Martinez told The Associated Press. “That decision rightly held that Michael’s conviction violated his Sixth Amendment constitutional right to the assistance of counsel. We hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will agree with the Connecticut Supreme Court and let its decision stand.”
The Chief State’s Attorney’s Office said in a statement that it was reviewing Skakel’s filing and would file a response if needed.
Skakel, 58, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, was arrested on a murder charge in 2000 for the bludgeoning death of Martha Moxley in their wealthy Greenwich neighborhood in 1975, when they were both 15 years old. The arrest came after new books about the case reignited the police investigation.
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A jury convicted Skakel in 2002, and he was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.
He served 11 years behind bars until being freed on $1.2 million bail in 2013. That’s when another court judge overturned his conviction on the grounds that his trial lawyer, Michael “Mickey” Sherman, made mistakes, including not contacting the alibi witness and not showing evidence suggesting that Skakel’s older brother killed Moxley. Sherman has defended his work.
The state Supreme Court in 2016 upheld Skakel’s murder conviction. But it reversed that ruling earlier this year, after a justice in the 4-3 majority retired and a new justice sided with Skakel — a move that has also drawn scrutiny.
Connecticut prosecutors asked the U.S. Supreme Court in August to hear their appeal. They argue that the state Supreme Court did not properly weigh Sherman’s overall performance against the mistake of failing to contact the alibi witness.
Skakel’s lawyers say he was miles away from the crime scene watching a “Monty Python” television show at the likely time Moxley was beaten to death with a Skakel family golf club.
Three relatives of Skakel testified during the trial that he was with them watching the show. Skakel’s lawyers argue that Sherman should have contacted another alibi witness who was not related to Skakel and who could have provided independent confirmation of the alibi.