Judge denies Skakel a new trial in 1975 slaying of neighbor

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By John Christoffersen
Associated Press / April 26, 2008

NEW HAVEN - A judge denied Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel's bid for a new trial Thursday, rejecting another man's assertion that two friends committed a 1975 killing that sent Skakel to prison.

Stamford Superior Court Judge Edward R. Karazin Jr. ruled against Skakel based on a week of testimony in April.

Skakel, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, is serving 20 years to life in prison after he was convicted in 2002 of fatally beating his 15-year-old neighbor, Martha Moxley, in the Belle Haven section of Greenwich in 1975 with a golf club.

Skakel's lawyer, Hope Seeley, said she was disappointed by the ruling.

"We believe Michael Skakel was wrongly convicted, and we will continue to pursue every legal avenue available to us," Seeley said.

Those avenues include appealing to a higher court and arguing that Skakel was ineffectively represented by his trial attorney, Michael "Mickey" Sherman.

Prosecutor Susann Gill said she was pleased with the judge's decision.

"The state is grateful to see that the judge didn't find anything in the petition that undermined the reliability of the jury's verdict," she said.

John Moxley, the victim's brother, said he was relieved but not surprised by the ruling.

To win a new trial, Skakel's lawyers had to prove that new evidence not available before his conviction could have changed the verdict.

Skakel sought a new trial based on Gitano "Tony" Bryant's assertion that his two friends told him they got Moxley "caveman style." Bryant and Skakel attended the same private school.

Karazin wrote in his ruling that Bryant's statements were admissible, but not credible.

"The corroboration for Bryant's claim is minimal," he wrote. "No one has any recall of ever seeing Bryant and his companions in Belle Haven on the night of the murder."

The judge also said Bryant's assertion that the other two men went "caveman style" was not supported, saying there was no evidence Moxley was dragged by her hair.

"The testimony of Bryant is absent any corroboration," Karazin wrote. "It lacks credibility, and therefore would not produce a different result in a new trial."

Bryant's lawyer declined comment.

Bryant gave a videotaped statement to a Skakel investigator in 2003, but has since invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The two men he implicated have done the same.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Skakel's cousin, had played a central role in investigating Bryant's assertion and telling Skakel's lawyers about it.

Prosecutors have said Bryant's statement is fabricated and that nobody saw him and his friends in the predominantly white, gated neighborhood the night of the murder.

Bryant and one of the men he implicated are black; the other has been described as mixed race.

Skakel sought a new trial based on Bryant's assertion that his friends told him they got Moxley 'caveman style.'

Request rejected

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