Skakel Cannot Be Released Immediately, Judge Rules

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel cannot be released immediately while he awaits a new trial in the 1975 slaying of neighbor Martha Moxley, a judge said Wednesday.

But Judge Thomas Bishop did lift a stay, which could clear the way for Skakel to seek bail later. The decision to lift the stay is not effective immediately and prosecutors can appeal it, though they said they hadn't determined yet whether they would.

Bishop ruled on Oct. 23 that Skakel's trial attorney, Michael Sherman, failed to adequately represent him in 2002 when he was convicted in Moxley's golf club bludgeoning. Skakel and Moxley were 15-year-old neighbors in wealthy Greenwich at the time of her death.

In removing the stay, Bishop said Sherman's errors were "substantial and pervasive." He said he didn't believe Skakel should be required to remain in prison for months or years while his ruling granting a new trial is appealed.

"This case was not a close call for this court," Bishop said.

Bishop said the case was sad for the victim's family.

Skakel's attorneys want him to be freed while awaiting a retrial, saying that keeping him in prison would be a miscarriage of justice. Prosecutors objected to the request for bond and are appealing the ruling granting Skakel a new trial.

Skakel, the 53-year-old nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel Kennedy, is serving 20 years to life. He wore handcuffs and leg shackles to court Wednesday and smiled and waved to supporters as he came into the courtroom.

His current attorney, Hubert Santos, had filed a motion seeking a $500,000 bond. Santos pushed for immediate bail, slamming the state's case against Skakel and noting that Skakel's son was only 4 or 5 when he was sent to prison more than a decade ago.

"He's entitled to get out as soon as possible," Santos said, expressing concern that an appeal of the stay decision could take a month or two.

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