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Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel granted bail as he awaits new Conn. trial
STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel was granted bail Thursday and is expected to be released from prison while prosecutors in Connecticut appeal a ruling giving him a new trial in the 1975 slaying of neighbor Martha Moxley.
Mr. Skakel, the 53-year-old nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel, touched his hand to his chest and looked back at his supporters in the courtroom, his brothers among them, as the judge set bail at $1.2 million. He has been in prison more than 11 years on a sentence of 20 years to life but was expected to be freed shortly after the hearing in Stamford Superior Court.
As conditions of the bail, the judge ordered that Mr. Skakel live in Connecticut and wear a GPS tracking device. His lawyer said moments after the hearing ended that Mr. Skakel was "very happy" about the outcome.
A judge ruled last month that Mr. Skakel's trial attorney, Michael Sherman, failed to adequately represent Mr. Skakel in 2002 when he was convicted in Moxley's bludgeoning with a golf club in wealthy Greenwich when they were both 15. Judge Thomas Bishop said Mr. Sherman failed to locate a witness who backed up Mr. Skakel's alibi that he was at his cousin's house the night of the murder and failed to find a man who challenged a star witness's claim that Mr. Skakel confessed.
"This is the first step in correcting a terrible wrong," the Skakel family said in a statement. "We look forward to Michael being vindicated and justice finally being served."
Outside court, Moxley's brother John and mother, Dorthy, said their family was disappointed with the bail decision.
Robert Kennedy Jr., who campaigned to overturn Mr. Skakel's conviction, said earlier this week that he felt "pure joy" that his cousin was expected to be released. Mr. Skakel has seen his son only a handful of times since he was sent to prison, he said.
"Everybody in my family knows that Michael is innocent," Mr. Kennedy said Tuesday. "He was in jail for over a decade for a crime he didn't commit. The only crime that he committed was having a bad lawyer."
The ruling for a new trial caught Moxley's family by surprise after a decade of unsuccessful appeals by Mr. Skakel's attorneys.
"He ought to serve his punishment," Mrs. Moxley, 81, said this week as the release was pending. "There's no doubt in my mind that he did it. A little justice for Martha is not asking a lot."
Mr. Skakel's attorney, Hubert Santos, previously argued that Mr. Skakel should be released immediately, saying that the ruling makes him an innocent defendant awaiting trial and that he was not a flight risk. Mr. Santos also argued that prosecutors were highly unlikely to win their appeal, a contention prosecutors dispute.
The case was considered a big challenge for prosecutors because of issues including the age of the crime and the lack of forensic evidence. Mr. Skakel was convicted after a trial that focused on testimony that he confessed or made incriminating statements over the years.
Both Mr. Sherman and prosecutors defended his handling of the case.
Mr. Skakel's older brother, Thomas, was an early suspect in the case because he was the last person seen with the victim, and Judge Bishop said in his ruling that Michael Skakel's defense should have focused more on Thomas Skakel.
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