Two jurors picked on first day of Skakel trial
By Lindsay Faber - Greenwich Time
NORWALK -- Lawyers selected two jurors yesterday for the 12-person panel that will determine the fate of 41-year-old Michael Skakel, who is on trial for the 1975 murder of his Greenwich neighbor Martha Moxley.
Twenty-four potential jurors were questioned yesterday on the opening day of jury selection by Superior Court Judge John Kava-
newsky Jr., Chief State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict and Skakel's defense attorney, Michael Sherman, in an effort to assess their attitudes about the highly publicized case.
One of those picked is a woman in her early 30s who works for a start-up marketing firm. She has an undergraduate degree in architecture and a graduate degree in business administration from Boston University. She mentors a 13-year-old girl in a Big Sister program.
The other is a man who works as the lead investment officer for a start-up company that employs 20 people.
Court officials would not provide further information about the two jurors selected.
"I think we're making incredible progress," Sher-
man said. "Two jurors on one day on a case like this is great."
Prosecutors have said they will not comment throughout the trial.
Of the 24 people questioned, 11 were accepted for a second round of inquiry. Seven underwent that second round of questioning and two jurors emerged from that pool. The remaining four candidates will be questioned today before court officials usher in the next pool.
Lawyers have estimated it will take about four weeks to select the panel of 12 jurors and four alternates.
Yesterday's jury pool included several executives, a school bus driver and a TV financial analyst.
Louis Rukeyser, who was recently ousted from the PBS show "Wall $treet Week With Louis Rukeyser" after 32 years, was excused from service because he edits two monthly financial newsletters.
Several other jurors also were excused for business or medical reasons.
By law, the prosecution and defense each get 18 peremptory challenges -- meaning they can dismiss a potential juror without reason. Benedict used two of his challenges yesterday. Sherman used one yesterday.
Skakel wore a dark suit and a light blue tie to the proceeding yesterday. He was flanked at all times by the defense team's bodyguard, Kris Steele, and its private investigator, Vito Colucci, a former Stamford police officer.
Skakel's brother, Steven Skakel, was the sole family member to attend the first day of jury selection.
"I couldn't imagine not being here to support my brother," Steven Skakel said, adding that more Skakel family members would attend in the coming weeks. He did not specify who.
Kavanewsky began the morning by instructing the prospective jurors not to discuss any details of the case nor to allow what they know about the case to color their opinions.
"Each of you, if you are selected as jurors, must give the defendant the benefit of the presumption of innocence," Kavanewsky said.
Kavanewsky introduced the panel to Skakel, who stood up and smiled at them.
When asked how the day went, Skakel replied, "Good." He did not appear to react during attorneys' questioning of jurors, but he did pass around photos of his 3-year-old son and his dog to reporters.
During the questioning by attorneys, Benedict asked most potential jurors if they would have trouble convicting a man based on circumstantial rather than direct evidence. He also asked several panel members if they would have reservations about convicting Skakel now that 27 years have passed since the crime.
Benedict also asked several prospective jurors about their feelings on dogs, possibly because of accounts that all of the neighborhood dogs barked in unison the night Moxley was murdered.
Sherman, meanwhile, asked jurors if they could handle seeing gruesome photos of Moxley's body, if they had preconceived opinions about the Kennedy family and if they could hold back potential sympathy for Dorthy Moxley, Martha's mother.
Dorthy Moxley did not attend court yesterday.
Also missing from the courtroom were members of the Kennedy family, to whom Skakel is related through his aunt Ethel, the widow of the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Early in the day, Sherman told Steven Skakel that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had called that morning to wish the family well.
Courtney Kennedy, another of the 11 children of Robert F. Kennedy, was on the defense team's list of witnesses, which was read in court yesterday. That list also includes Skakel's brothers John Skakel and Rushton Skakel Jr., his sister Julie Skakel, his cousin James Terrien and a former family live-in tutor.
Sherman also will call a veterinarian, possibly in connection with Benedict's questions about the dogs.
The live-in tutor, Kenneth Littleton, a former suspect in the case who was granted immunity for his testimony to a grand jury, also will be called by the prosecution. Their list includes former Greenwich police officers, former state medical examiners, former Belle Haven neighbors of the Skakels and the Moxleys, Skakel's brother Thomas Skakel and his father, Rushton Skakel Sr.
A friend discovered Moxley's body in her yard on Halloween. She had been out the night before with several friends, including Michael Skakel.
Prosecutors believe Skakel used a six-iron from his late mother's monogrammed golf club set to murder Moxley. Skakel allegedly confessed he killed her to classmates at a Maine substance abuse treatment facility in the late 1970s.
He was arrested in January 2000 after a one-judge grand jury investigated the murder and arraigned as a juvenile because of his age when the crime was committed. The case was later transferred to adult court.
If convicted, Skakel could face life in prison.
Evidence in the trial will begin May 7. Kavanewsky said he expects the trial to last five weeks.