Fuhrman's televised remarks anger rehab owner's widow
By J.A. Johnson Jr. - Greenwich Time
The widow of the owner of a rehab facility where Michael Skakel allegedly confessed to murdering Martha Moxley has demanded a public apology from former Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman for his recent televised remarks suggesting her husband killed himself to avoid testifying at Skakel's trial.
A lawyer representing Sharon Terry informed Fuhrman earlier this month that even should he apologize, Terry was considering filing a libel lawsuit for implying her husband, Joseph Ricci, committed suicide.
"Your remarks are nothing short of a cruel and vicious attack on the courage and integrity of a person who is no longer around to defend himself," Terry's attorney, John Campbell, said in a letter dated Feb. 15. "You made these callous statements the very evening Mr. Ricci's wife and others were gathered to grieve his loss."
Ricci - owner of Elan School, where Skakel was treated for alcohol abuse from 1978 to 1980 - died of cancer Jan. 29, two days before Fuhrman made the statements on "Rivera Live," a CNBC program that focuses on current criminal cases and legal issues. Prosecutors have alleged that Ricci was present when Skakel confessed to his involvement in Moxley's murder.
Fuhrman said he learned of Ricci's death only a few hours prior to appearing on the show.
"I was not thinking that this death was so recent, and family members were probably grieving over their loss, and that's something I certainly would apologize for," Fuhrman said yesterday.
Fuhrman said while he regretted the timing of his statements, he would not apologize for the substance of what he said.
"There's nothing there but questions and opinions," he said. "That's all I was doing, raising some concerns and questions, and I certainly did not infer that Joe Ricci had somehow been silenced."
Fuhrman authored a 1999 book about the Moxley case, "Murder in Greenwich: Who Killed Martha Moxley." The "Rivera Live" show that aired Jan. 31 featured discussion about the latest development in the Moxley case - that a judge had ruled 40-year-old Skakel must be tried as an adult for the crime he allegedly committed at age 15.
After telling fellow guests that Ricci's death was "the most timely death in all (of) law enforcement," Fuhrman asked, "Doesn't it disturb anybody that there's a possibility he could have committed suicide?"
In his letter, Campbell wrote, "Mr. Fuhrman, it appears that you deliberately set out to convey on this program the utterly false notion that Mr. Ricci had killed himself for fear of having to testify. Through your repeated references to the 'convenient' timing of his death and references to suicide, you suggested that Mr. Ricci was harboring some secrets you imply he was privy to through some representative of the Skakel family and that he killed himself because he had learned there would be a trial of Mr. Skakel as an adult at which he would have to testify."
Ricci's testimony had been sought for the 1998 grand jury that resulted in Skakel's arrest in January 2000. According to a prosecution affidavit, "Joseph Ricci was present and overheard Michael Skakel make admissions as to the murder of Martha Moxley. Those admissions were made by Michael Skakel in response to being confronted by Mr. Ricci and other Elan staff members as to Skakel's involvement in the matter."
Skakel blocked Ricci's testimony from the grand jury when, in August 1999, the state Appellate Court agreed with Skakel's claim that anything he might have said while undergoing substance abuse treatment was privileged information.
In numerous media interviews, Ricci denied ever hearing Skakel confess to the Moxley murder.
Skakel has been arraigned twice for Moxley's murder, as a juvenile in March 2000 and as an adult last Wednesday. He is scheduled to return to court April 18 for a probable cause hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for his case to proceed to trial.