Ruling on Skakel proceedings expected Monday
By Ryan Jockers - Greenwich Time
A ruling on a request to open juvenile court proceedings against Michael Skakel, charged in the murder of Martha Moxley, is not expected until Monday.
Skakel is due in Juvenile Court in Stamford on Tuesday, following his Jan. 19 arrest in the murder of Moxley, who was bludgeoned to death in October 1975. Skakel, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, has been charged as a juvenile because he was 15 at the time of the alleged crime.
Juvenile proceedings are normally closed to press and public. But on Thursday, several newspapers - Greenwich Time, The (Stamford) Advocate, The New York Times, The Hartford Courant and Newsday - filed a motion to open the proceedings.
"Mr. Skakel's legal team has already sought and received significant media coverage," the motion stated, "publicly naming him as the person charged in the murder of Martha Moxley, and invited the public scrutiny of these proceedings."
Skakel's attorney, Michael Sherman of Stamford, said yesterday he is not opposed to opening the proceedings.
"We're absolutely sick of this 'Kennedy-kin' crap and we have said all along that this will not go to trial and we have nothing to hide," Sherman said in an interview from Hobe Sound, Fla., where he was with Skakel. "The more information people have about the lack of evidence, the more understanding they will be of (Skakel's) innocence."
Sherman said Juvenile Court Judge Maureen Dennis would be considering the motion.
Fairfield County State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict said yesterday he had no position on whether Juvenile Court proceedings should be open to the media or not.
"I'm the prosecutor; I represent the people," Benedict said in an interview yesterday. "I'm not in the position to be an advocate as to whether they (the juvenile court proceedings) should be opened or closed."
Benedict, who appointed a grand jury to investigate the Moxley killing in June 1998, said Juvenile Court had contacted him and Sherman and asked them to meet at 10 a.m. Monday. Benedict said he did not know whether the meeting involved a decision on the motion.
Stephanie Abrutyn, an attorney for Times Mirror - the parent company of Greenwich Time, The Advocate, Newsday and The Hartford Courant - said yesterday that a decision is not likely before Monday.
Abrutyn said she had been asked by Juvenile Court to be available at 2 p.m. Monday if a hearing is needed. She said a Juvenile Court judge could either grant or deny the newspapers' motion without holding a hearing.
However, Abrutyn said, "We believe the judge has the authority to grant our motion. And in light of the fact that there is no opposition, we remain optimistic."
Philip Russell, a criminal lawyer based in Greenwich, said yesterday that one thing is certain: Juvenile Court will deny the newspapers' motion to open the proceedings.
"There's not much discretion for a Juvenile Court judge," Russell said. "The statute says juveniles are sealed."
Moxley was found on the ground of her family's home, beaten and stabbed to death with a golf club belonging to a set owned by the Skakels. Michael Skakel's older brother Thomas and the Skakels' live-in tutor at the time of the murder, Kenneth Littleton, were each suspects for years. In June 1998, a grand jury was convened and after 18 months it issued a report that found probable cause to arrest Michael Skakel in the murder.
Sherman has said Skakel will not plead to any charges because he is innocent. Whether the trial will be held in Juvenile Court or state Superior Court, in private or in public, remains to be determined.