Election Section

Kennedy cousin found guilty of 1975 murder

By John Christofferson, The Associated Press
Saturday June 08, 2002

NORWALK, Conn. – Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel was convicted Friday of beating Greenwich neighbor Martha Moxley to death in 1975 when they were 15 — a crime that went unsolved for nearly a generation and raised suspicions his family connections had protected him. 

Prosecutors offered no eyewitnesses and no direct physical evidence connecting Skakel to the slaying. Instead, the case was based almost entirely on testimony from people who said they had heard him confess over the years. 

The 41-year-old Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel, was handcuffed and led off immediately to jail. He faces from 10 years to life in prison at sentencing July 19. 

Skakel’s lawyer promised a quick appeal. 

“This is certainly the most upsetting verdict I’ve ever had — or will ever have — in my life,” defense attorney Michael Sherman said. “But I will tell you, as long as there’s a breath in my body, this case is not over.” 

The Moxley family wept at what her mother called “Martha’s day,” which finally came more than a quarter-century after her death. 

Martha’s battered body was discovered under a tree on her family’s estate in the wealthy community of Greenwich. She had been bludgeoned and stabbed with a golf club, later traced to a set owned by Skakel’s mother. 

Prosecutors contended Skakel had a crush on Martha and was upset because she seemed more interested in his older brother, Thomas. 

The prosecution’s case rested almost entirely on about a dozen people who said they had heard Skakel confess or make incriminating statements over the years. Several were former classmates from the Elan School, a drug and alcohol rehab center for rich kids in Maine. 

The defense argued that the Elan School witnesses were of dubious credibility. And family members all backed up Skakel’s alibi: that he was at a cousin’s home around the time of the slaying. His lawyers also sought to cast suspicion on a former family tutor, and pointed out that the tutor and Thomas Skakel were both early suspects in the investigation. 

Skakel did not take the stand. In a tape-recorded 1997 interview with an author that was played for the jury, Skakel said he went to the Moxley home, threw rocks at Martha’s window to try to get her attention, then masturbated in a tree and ran home. 

The jury deliberated for more than three days.