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New Murder Trial Ordered For Kennedy Cousin Michael Skakel

Jessica Hill
Michael Skakel enters the State Supreme Court for a hearing in Hartford, Conn., in 2016.

In a stunning reversal, the Connecticut Supreme Court on Friday vacated Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel's murder conviction and ordered a new trial in connection with the 1975 killing of his 15-year-old neighbor, Martha Moxley, in Greenwich.

Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel Kennedy, was convicted of murder in 2002 in the bludgeoning death of Moxley in their wealthy Greenwich neighborhood, when they were teenagers.

It took Connecticut prosecutors 27 years to bring charges against Skakel for the murder. The initial wrangling was over whether or not he would be tried as an adult for a murder he was accused of committing when he was a teenager.

In 2002, he was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, but was freed on $1.2 million bail after the lower court overturned his murder conviction in 2013.

In 2016, a divided Connecticut Supreme Court reinstated Skakel’s conviction.

That court now, with the same evidence, ruled 4-to-3 to reverse its earlier decision and grant Skakel a new trial.

“The effort to free him is a tragedy for Connecticut and especially for the Moxley family,” says Jeffrey Toobin, a legal analyst who has followed the trial.

Toobin says he doubts that the State of Connecticut will ever try Skakel again.

“It was difficult enough to try him all those years after the crime. To do it all these years later, with witnesses again and dying, disappearing, I don’t think it’s at all a foregone conclusion that the State of Connecticut will try him again.”

Skakel’s lawyer, Hubert Santos, had asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its 2016 ruling, resulting in Friday's decision. Afterward he released a statement, saying “this has been a long road for Michael” and that he’s grateful to the court for its latest ruling.

The case has drawn international attention because of the Kennedy name, Skakel's rich family, numerous theories about who killed Moxley and the brutal way in which she died. Several other people, including Skakel's brother Tommy Skakel, have been mentioned as possible killers.

Moxley's brother, John Moxley, told the AP that he was disappointed with the ruling and that it was too soon to say what the family would want next in the case.

"I don't know what the next steps are. My mom is getting older. I just don't think she has the strength to go with this," said Moxley.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.
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