Moxley's mother praises decision
By J.A. Johnson Jr. - Greenwich Time
Dorthy Moxley was vacationing in Florida when daughter-in-law Kara Moxley called yesterday afternoon with news she'd been anticipating for months.
"I'm just as pleased as I can be," the former Greenwich resident said in a telephone interview after she learned her daughter's murder case would be tried in adult court. "It's a big step in the right direction because justice is what I want, and I do believe we have the right guy."
After an October hearing in which 40-year-old Michael Skakel made his case that, because he was 15 when he allegedly murdered Martha Moxley, his case should remain in juvenile court, state Superior Court Judge Maureen Dennis ruled yesterday that he will be tried as an adult.
"I've tried keeping myself very busy" since the hearing more than three months ago, "but the past few weeks have been very hard," said Dorthy Moxley, who now lives in New Jersey. "I was running out of things to do to keep busy."
Dorthy and her son, John Moxley, are the victim's only surviving immediate family members.
Michael Sherman, who has been Skakel's defense lawyer since his client became the target of a grand jury investigation in 1988, took the judge's ruling in stride.
"I'm not shocked at all," he said. "This is something we certainly expected, even though I respectfully disagree with the court."
According to Sherman, Skakel was "calm" when told he would be tried as an adult during an extended telephone conversation he had with him yesterday afternoon.
"We've always looked forward to exoneration and acquittal," Sherman said.
State Inspector Frank Garr, the prosecution's lead investigator for the Moxley case, who investigated the case for many years before he retired as a Greenwich detective, took personal satisfaction in Dennis' decision.
"I'm pleased with it, and I do believe this is the way it should go," Garr said. "And I know the Moxleys are pleased as well."
Quinnipiac University School of Law Professor William Dunlap, who had predicted Skakel's case would be transferred to adult court, said he doubted the case would set precedent for how juvenile cases are handled.
"I think it's unlikely to have much significance on future cases because a very unusual set of facts like in this case is highly unlikely to arise again," Dunlap said. "Even if there were to be another case like this, that case would have to be decided on its own set of facts."
Skakel was not arrested until January 2000, after new information led to the convening of a grand jury that spent 18 months investigating the 1975 homicide. In the October hearing, Dennis heard testimony from state juvenile court officials who admitted they were at a loss over what to do with a middle-aged adult defendant.
Because the decision to transfer the case was made at the trial level, Dunlap said, "Skakel might appeal this, and if the Appellate Court sustains Judge Dennis, then it would have some precedential value."
Sherman said an appeal is possible.
Dunlap said Dennis' decision was the only one she could have made because the juvenile court system's two main functions did not apply to Skakel's case.
"Juvenile court is held in secret to protect people whose lives could be ruined by publicity, but that publicity is already there," he said of the case in which the defendant has been in the national media's spotlight because of his relationship to the Kennedy clan. Skakel's father, Rushton Skakel, is the brother of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel.
"The other purpose of juvenile court is to isolate young people from adult criminals, and here the defendant is already an adult," Dunlap said.