Kennedy cousin to be tried for murder in adult court

By Steve Feica

Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. – The state Supreme Court dismissed an appeal from Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel, who had sought to have his trial in the 1975 murder of a neighbor heard in juvenile court.

In a unanimous decision released today, the state’s highest court ruled that a Juvenile Court judge’s decision to transfer the case to adult court was not appealable at this stage, before trial.

“This court considered whether an order of the juvenile matters division transferring the case to the regular criminal docket … was a final judgment for the purposes of appeal. We first noted that, in a criminal case, the final judgment is ordinarily the imposition of sentence, which had not yet occurred,” Chief Justice William J. Sullivan wrote.

Fairfield County State’s Attorney Jonathan Benedict said he was pleased with the ruling and looks forward to bringing the case to trial.

“The case is 26 years old now, and I think both parties feel strongly that it is something that needs to get resolved pretty quickly.”

The defense said it could still appeal on the juvenile court issue later.

“It’s not a loss,” said Michael Sherman, Skakel’s attorney. “They’re telling us to come back when there is a decision to appeal.”

Skakel, a nephew of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, is charged with the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley, a neighbor who was beaten to death with a golf club. Skakel and Moxley were 15 at the time.

Skakel is now 41. No arrests were made for more than 24 years after the killing. Skakel was charged in January 2000 and was arraigned as a juvenile because of his age at the time of the killing.

Juvenile Court Judge Maureen Dennis had ruled in January that adult court was the proper venue for the trial, in part because the state has no juvenile facility where it could send Skakel if he is convicted.

No trial date has been set. As an adult, Skakel could be sentenced to 10 years to life in prison. As a juvenile, the maximum penalty Skakel could have received under the law in effect in 1975 was four years.

The state Supreme Court justices heard arguments in September on Skakel’s appeal of the lower court decision that transferred the case to adult court.

Dorthy Moxley, the victim’s mother, said she was very pleased with the ruling. She said she has waited for 26 years to see the case go to trial.

“Hearing it in Juvenile Court would not mean much,” Moxley said. “If he were found guilty in Juvenile Court, at least the world would know who killed my daughter. In an adult court, he would be punished as an adult.”

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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