State To Appeal Skakel Habeas Decision

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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Michael Skakel
Michael Skakel

Prosecutors will appeal Wednesday’s decision granting habeas corpus relief to Kennedy-cousin Michael Skakel, who was convicted in 2002 for the murder of Martha Moxley.

The state also intends to object to any request to set bail or otherwise allow the release of Skakel from custody while the state’s appeal is pending.

Skakel was granted a new trial by a Connecticut judge who ruled his attorney failed to adequately represent him when he was convicted in 2002 of killing his neighbor in 1975.

The habeas court’s ruling does not rest on newly discovered evidence or any finding that Skakel is actually innocent of Moxley’s murder, John C. Smriga, State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Fairfield, stressed, but rather on a conclusion that Skakel’s attorney Michael Sherman provided inadequate representation at trial. Although the state is still in the process of reviewing the habeas court’s ruling, the state will challenge this conclusion as based on a misapplication of the law and a misconstruction of the facts, prosecutors said.

According to a press release put out by the state: "Attorney Michael Sherman devoted four years and thousands of hours to Skakel’s defense. His preparation included countless hours seeking out and interviewing witnesses, consulting with experts, researching legal issues, reviewing the enormous amount of discovery provided by the state, and using legal means to block the state’s access to incriminating evidence. He prosecuted two pre-trial appeals. Attorney Sherman used his judgment, developed over his more than three decades as a criminal defense attorney, to make strategic decisions," the press release states.

 “The state’s case relied on Michael Skakel’s uncontested connection to the murder weapon, strong evidence of motive, substantial evidence of consciousness of guilt, nearly a dozen incriminating admissions and three unequivocal confessions,” Smriga said.

The ruling by Judge Thomas Bishop marked a dramatic reversal after years of unsuccessful appeals by Skakel, the 53-year-old nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel Kennedy. Skakel is serving 20 years to life.

Skakel's current attorney, Hubert Santos, said he expects to file a motion for bail on Thursday. If a judge approves it, Skakel could then post bond and be released from prison.

''We're very, very thrilled,'' Santos said. ''I always felt that Michael was innocent.''

Skakel argued his trial attorney, Michael Sherman, was negligent in defending him when he was convicted in the golf club bludgeoning of Martha Moxley when they were 15 in wealthy Greenwich.

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