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New Evidence Tussle in Skakel Case

The convicted Kennedy cousin's team claims to have fresh material, and prosecutors want a look.

September 14, 2003|John J. Goldman | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — The judge who sentenced Michael Skakel to 20 years to life for the murder of Martha Moxley is considering a motion filed by prosecutors that would force Skakel's new defense team to produce evidence they claim will free the Kennedy cousin.

But the tone of the request this week by Connecticut State's Atty. Jonathan C. Benedict clearly reflected doubt the conviction will be overturned.

"We will continue to monitor developments and sift through all pertinent information," Benedict said in a statement issued to the media. "We take this claim very seriously, but with increasing skepticism.

"We are eager to confront it in court."

Skakel's new defense team claims that two friends of a former classmate of Skakel's killed the 15-year-old in October 1975 with golf clubs they found in the Skakel family's front yard.

The Skakels and the Moxleys were neighbors in the exclusive Greenwich, Conn., community of Belle Haven when the slaying took place. Skakel is a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, widow of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

Details of the alleged fresh evidence first appeared in the Hartford Courant, which identified the classmate as Gitano "Tony" Bryant, a cousin of Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant.

The Connecticut newspaper said that Bryant's two friends met Moxley at several events, including a street fair and a church dance in Greenwich, and that one became obsessed with her.

In his motion, Benedict asked Connecticut Superior Court Judge John F. Kavanewsky Jr. to order Skakel's new lawyers, Hubert Santos and Hope Seeley, to supply the names and addresses of people the new evidence allegedly implicates.

Benedict said that in July 2002, after Skakel was found guilty and before sentencing, Crawford Mills, who attended the exclusive Brunswick School with Skakel and Bryant, gave prosecutors a written summary that identified Bryant but not the two alleged perpetrators.

In a previous contact with the prosecuting attorneys, Mills refused to divulge names or identify sources, Benedict said.

He said that Mills initially presented his allegations in the form of a "proposed screenplay as a theory of defense."

"That is not the type of information that a criminal investigator, or for that matter a responsible journalist, should be expected to act on," Benedict said.

Benedict said the material was turned over to Michael Sherman, who had represented Skakel during the trial.

Before Skakel, 42, was sentenced to 20 years to life for bludgeoning Moxley to death with a golf club when they were 15 years old, he stood up in court and proclaimed his innocence.

"I would love to be able to say I did this crime so the Moxley family would have rest and peace," Skakel told Kavanewsky in August 2002. "But I can't, your honor, because to do that would be a lie in front of my God."

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