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No Doubt on Guilt in Killing, Jurors Say

June 09, 2002|From Associated Press

DARIEN, Conn. — Jurors who convicted Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel of a 1975 murder said Saturday their decision was based not on a single piece of evidence, but an overwhelming set of circumstances.

A majority of jurors believed Skakel was guilty at the start of deliberations, while a few had questions about testimony that they wanted to resolve, two jurors said Saturday.

"For me it was the overwhelming weight of the various pieces of circumstantial evidence taken as a whole," Bill Smith said.

Laura Copeland said for her, Skakel's own mouth did him in.

"I truly believe he is guilty," Copeland said. "I felt if he kept his mouth shut for 27 years, [it] probably wouldn't have gotten to that point. I gave weight to his own words."

Smith noted a series of incriminating statements Skakel made over the years to a Greenwich hairdresser, a family chauffeur, classmates, a childhood friend and even an author who planned to write a book about Skakel's life growing up with the Kennedys. He also cited other signs of guilt, including Skakel appearing agitated after the murder.

"The prosecutors kept laying it on," said Smith, a 39-year-old corporate attorney. "It was so many independent sources."

Skakel, 41, a nephew of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel, was jailed Friday after he was convicted of killing Martha Moxley. The two were 15-year-old neighbors in wealthy Greenwich.

Prosecutors played a tape of Skakel's interview with author Richard Hoffman, in which Skakel said he went out to the Moxley property and masturbated in a tree the night she was beaten to death with a golf club later traced to the Skakel family. Moxley's body was found under a tree on her property.

"For me, personally, placing himself at the scene of the crime, walking himself through the scene of the crime, was a huge error," said Copeland, a 39-year-old executive search consultant.

Smith emphasized the testimony of Andrew Pugh, Skakel's childhood friend, who said Skakel told him about the tree incident and encouraged him to talk to a private investigative firm hired by his family.

"He was telling a story to cover for the possibility of physical evidence being found at the scene," Smith said. "Andy Pugh--I don't think there could have been a more credible witness."

Smith and Copeland both said they rejected Skakel's alibi that he took a trip to his cousin's house the night Moxley was murdered to watch "Monty Python's Flying Circus" on television. Skakel said on the tape that he had been in his father's car parked in the driveway with Moxley and other teens when his older brothers came out to take their cousin home.

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