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Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel loses bid for parole

October 24, 2012|By Michael Muskal

A Connecticut board on Wednesday rejected the initial parole bid by Michael Skakel, a cousin of the famed Kennedy clan, who insisted he was not guilty of killing a teenage girl in 1975.

Wearing a prison jumpsuit, Skakel, again proclaimed his innocence of  the killing of Martha Moxley in 1975. In a celebrated trial, Skakel was convicted in 2002 of killing Moxley with a golf club when they were both 15 years old.

Skakel, now 52, heavyset and with thinning gray hair, has served just over 10 years of a 20-years-to-life sentence handed down by the court. He has always maintained he was innocent of the killing, a claim rejected by the Moxley family, which has called for him to serve at least 20 years in prison.

“I did not commit this crime,” Skakel said at the hearing at McDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Conn., according to a variety of media reports including one in the Hartford Courant.

“If I could ease Mrs. Moxley's pain in any way, shape or form I would take responsibility all day long for this crime,” Skakel said. “I cannot bear false witness against myself.”

Erika Tindill, chairwoman of the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles, said it was odd for Skakel to ask for early release while proclaiming he was not guilty.  Skakel, the nephew of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, agreed.

“I know the best chance for me getting paroled” is to admit the crime, he said. “But 10 ½ years later, I can't do that ... it just isn’t me.”

Moxley was last seen alive at a Halloween party at the Skakel home in an affluent section of Greenwich, Conn., at the end of October 1975. Her body was found the next day under a tree in her family’s backyard.

Through the years, there were questions about whether the Skakels were given preferential treatment because of the family ties to the Kennedys. Despite police investigations, the case languished until journalists took it on. By 1993, the celebrated writer Dominick Dunne wrote a fictional version of the case, titled “A Season in Purgatory.”

In June 2000, Michael Skakel, then a 40-year-old divorced father, was indicted for Moxley's murder. Skakel was convicted for Moxley's murder on June 7, 2002.

In 2003, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Skakel's cousin and an attorney,  wrote in The Atlantic Monthly a piece titled  “A Miscarriage of Justice,” arguing that Skakel's indictment “was triggered by an inflamed media, and that an innocent man is now in prison."

In letters to the parole board, Skakel's supporters, including his cousin Robert, argued that Skakel has helped alcoholics recover. They also portrayed him as religious and devoted to his son. Many letters cite Skakel's artwork in prison, saying he has made uplifting paintings that show his true nature, give joy to others and encourage family values.

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