Questions remain on entering plea
By J.A. Johnson Jr. - Greenwich Time

When defendant Michael Skakel steps into court this afternoon, he will hear a formal reading of the charge that almost 25 years ago he murdered 15-year old Martha Moxley of the Belle Haven section of Greenwich.

What occurs after that is uncertain.

Because he will be arraigned by a juvenile court judge - Skakel was 15 when he allegedly murdered Moxley in 1975 - neither the prosecutor nor Skakel's defense attorney knows whether Skakel will be asked to enter a plea at today's proceeding.

That is bicadse prosecution of Skakel, 39, appears to be headed toward adult court, and Juvenile Matters division Judge Maureen Dennis may decide adult court is the proper venue for a plea to be entered.

"Michael will certainly be advised of his rights at the Arraignment, and sometimes they'll ask for a plea to be entered.

But since this is being done in juvenile court, I'm not sure whether he'll be asked to plead at this time," Skakel's attorney, Michael Sherman, said. " What I do expect will happen is the state's attorney will be motioning to transfer the case to adult court."

Not necessarily,'accordin to a representative of the Skakel case prosecutor, State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict, State Inspector Frank Garr, Benedict's lead investigator in the Moxley murder, said Benedict's office had not drafted any written motions to be made at the arraignment and that he knew of no plans by Benedict to verbally ask today that the case be transferred to adult court.

Benedict was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Whatever happens today", Sherman and Garr agreed, a hearing will have to be held at a later date to determine the proper court for Skakel's trial.

Sherman said any motions fie' makes regarding his client's, defense including a motion to dismiss the murder charge will come after the court jurisdictional matter has been resolved.

Skakel will be arraigned today in a courtroom open to the public. Dennis ruled last week in favor of a motion by a group of five newspapers that sought access to the normally closed juvenile court proceedin Among other things, Dennis stated in her 15-page ruling that Skakel's adult status precluded any need for the protections that juvenile court secrecy rules provide for minor children.

Skakel was arrested Jan. 19 after an 18-month grand jury investigation determined sufficient probable cause existed for his arrest on a murder charge. Through his attorney, Skakel 6as maintained he is innocent.