Appellate Practice

Judge grants new trial for Kennedy cousin Skakel in 1975 slaying of teenage neighbor


A Connecticut judge has OK’d a new trial for Michael Skakel, a cousin of the famous Kennedy family, due to ineffective assistance of counsel.

Skakel, 52, is a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy. He was convicted in 2002 of beating to death a teenage neighbor, Martha Moxley, in 1975 and is serving a 20-years-to-life prison term. The Bridgeport state’s attorney plans to appeal Wednesday’s ruling by Judge Thomas Bishop that Skakel’s attorney, Michael Sherman, had not adequately defended him at trial, according to the Associated Press and the Hartford Courant.

Meanwhile, Skakel’s current attorney, Hubert Santos, plans to apply for bail. He argued earlier that Sherman was more focused on enjoying the limelight than his client’s defense, made risky jury picks and failed to challenge the state’s star witness, among other claimed errors. Sherman has said he mounted a vigorous defense.

Bishop described Sherman’s defense in scathing terms in a 136-page opinion, the Courant reports.

“The defense of a serious felony prosecution requires attention to detail, an energetic investigation and a coherent plan of defense capably executed,” the judge wrote. “Trial counsel’s failures in each of these areas of representation were significant and, ultimately, fatal to a constitutionally adequate defense.”

He remanded the case to the Stamford-Norwalk Judicial District for retrial.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Skakel Lawyers: Prosecutors Withheld Evidence in Murder Case”

ABAJournal.com: “Celebrity Lawyer Didn’t Timely Pay $400K in Taxes, But Hopes to Keep Law License & Avoid Prison”

ABAJournal.com: “Kennedy Cousin Michael Skakel Has First Parole Hearing; Claims He is Innocent of 1975 Murder”

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