Prosecutor says Skankel talked about killing Moxley

Monday, June 3, 2002

Associated Press WriterNORWALK, Conn. (AP) -- The 1975 slaying of Martha Moxley was a crime of hate and rage that Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel began talking about almost as soon as he committed it, prosecutors told the jury in closing arguments Monday. But the defense said he had nothing to do with the killing.

Skakel, 41, is accused of beating Moxley to death with a golf club when both were 15-year-old neighbors in a wealthy gated community in Greenwich. The golf club used in the murder was matched to a set owned by Skakel's mother. Skakel is a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert F. Kennedy.

Prosecutor Jonathan Benedict noted that Moxley was not only beaten with a golf club but stabbed through the neck, which Benedict said was the most clear evidence of the fury behind the crime.

Defense attorney Michael Sherman said Skakel was totally innocent.

"He didn't do it, he doesn't know who did it, he wasn't there when the crime was committed and he didn't confess," Sherman told the jury.

Sherman said Skakel had problems as a teen-ager, "but they never rose to the level ... that he became a demonic killer on Halloween."

The defense reminded jurors there was no physical or forensic evidence linking Skakel to the crime. Sherman denied prosecution suggestions that Skakel's connection to the wealthy and powerful Kennedy clan had somehow protected him, noting that the defense case was a simple, low-tech affair.

"Whoever did this should rot in hell," Sherman told jurors. "But There was more than somebody who had a crush on somebody."

Benedict described Moxley as a "pretty, athletic, flirtatious 15-year-old kid," who was "drawn into the vortex of the competing hormones" of Michael Skakel and his older brother, Thomas.

Benedict described the night of the murder -- the night before Halloween, known as "Mischief Night" -- when Skakel, Moxley and other teens were roaming the estates of the Belle Haven neighborhood. Around 9 p.m., Skakel and Moxley were listening to music in Skakel's father's car, Benedict said.

"This was the defendant's big moment," Benedict said. "Unfortunately, they were joined by Thomas, Michael's nemesis."

Witnesses testified during the trial that Michael and Thomas had a contentious relationship. A former student at the Elan School, a substance abuse treatment center in Maine that Michael Skakel attended, said he told classmates his brother "stole his girlfriend."

Within 24 hours of the murder, Skakel began confessing or making incriminating statements, Benedict said. First he told a friend of his sister that he and Thomas were the last seen with Moxley. Six months later, Benedict said, Skakel told a barber he had "killed before."

Then Skakel told a family limo driver that he had done something terrible and had to either kill himself or leave the country.

Benedict reminded jurors that classmates at Elan also said Skakel had confessed or made incriminating statements. One witness, Gregory Coleman, testified that Skakel told him: "I'm going to get away with murder, because I'm a Kennedy."

Coleman died last year after using heroin, but his pretrial testimony was read into the record by prosecutors.

Benedict highlighted the murder weapon, the handle of which was never found. The clubs were labeled near the top of the shaft, he said.

"The piece that is missing has significance only to someone named Skakel," Benedict said. "The murderer made sure to hide forever that part of the club which said where it came from.

"The golf club is not a smoking gun, but it certainly is a warm barrel," Benedict said.

Benedict also said that in the 1990s, after DNA evidence became commonplace in trials, Skakel changed his alibi and said he had climbed a tree outside Moxley's house the night of the murder, threw stones at her window and masturbated before climbing down. Benedict said Skakel had masturbated on the body after the murder, calling it "the ultimate humiliation."

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