Judge excuses former classmate of Skakel
By Kevin McCallum - Greenwich Time

NORWALK -- A Greenwich social worker who was a classmate of Michael Skakel's in 1975 will not serve on his jury because the judge agreed with prosecutors that she "grew up in the middle" of the Martha Moxley murder.

Skakel's defense team argued yesterday that Catherine Giorgio, now of Darien, should not be barred from serving on the jury just because she attended St. Mary High School in Greenwich at the same time Skakel did.

"That's the very definition of a jury of one's peers," Skakel's attorney, Michael Sherman, told state Superior Court Judge John Kavanewsky Jr.

Giorgio, 41, did not know Skakel while he attended the school, nor had she formed an opinion about his guilt or innocence, Sherman argued during the second day of jury selection yesterday at state Superior Court in Norwalk.

But Kavanewsky agreed with State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict that Giorgio should not serve on the panel because she was a classmate of Skakel, 41, at the time Martha Moxley was murdered.

Benedict did not use one of his 18 peremptory challenges to remove Giorgio, but rather asked the judge to remove her "for good cause." Kavanewsky granted the motion.

Since getting under way Tuesday, attorneys have spent a significant amount of time questioning potential jurors about their familiarity with the case.

But yesterday was the first time someone apparently was dismissed because of her knowledge of the 26-year-old investigation, which has attracted intense media coverage.

Showing off what he knew of the local community, the Greenwich-born Sherman began questioning Giorgio by noting that he had worked for years with her mother, Lauren Gasparino, a probation officer in Stamford. He also added that he knew her father, Peter Gasparino.

But Sherman was most interested in Giorgio's recollections about the investigation into Martha Moxley's murder.

Giorgio remembered the fear that pervaded the town after Moxley's bludgeoned body was found under a tree at her Belle Haven home.

She also recalled that the first suspect in the case was Skakel family tutor Kenneth Littleton. She knew Michael's brother Thomas Skakel also was a suspect, she said, and that the investigation later turned to Michael Skakel after police found that "years ago they were wrong."

Giorgio also said she was perplexed by former Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman's role in the case, noting that the prevailing sentiment around town was that he was "really rude and not complimentary to the community."

Fuhrman wrote a book in 1998 about the case that criticized the Greenwich Police Department's investigation. The book pointed to Michael Skakel as the probable killer.

Though she noted that it was a "bizarre situation" that she went to school with a man whose fate she could now decide, Giorgio told Sherman she hadn't made up her mind about Skakel's guilt or innocence.

"I haven't heard anything about any evidence," she said. ". . . I don't have any kind of predisposition on it."

Despite her having a mother who was a probation officer and other relatives who worked for the Greenwich Police Department, Sherman seemed satisfied with Giorgio's answers about the criminal justice system.

"I think like any system, it's made up of people and individuals," she said. "I think that we want to believe that it always works. I don't think that it always works. I don't think that it always fails."

But Benedict zeroed in on Giorgio's statement that being Skakel's former classmate made her feel "awkward."

While she was a student at St. Mary, the community was abuzz with "supposition and swirlings" about the Skakel family's possible involvement in Moxley's murder, Giorgio recalled.

Benedict asked whether she could be impartial since she "grew up in the middle" of the events she might now be called upon to judge.

"Everyone kind of grew up in the middle of this in this community," she replied.

After being dismissed, Giorgio said in an interview outside the courthouse that she was relieved not to have been chosen.

"I think this jury would have been a really, really difficult one to be on," she said.

Giorgio said she could understand how prosecutors might be concerned whether she would be able to rely only on the evidence they presented her.

"I just think that I was too much of a wild card for them," she said.

Prior to Giorgio's departure, both sides were able to agree on selection of another Darien woman, a high school Spanish teacher.

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