Clock is ticking for Michael Skakel:
The road ahead for Martha Moxley's accused killer
By Peter Moore -- Greenwich Post

The case against Michael Skakel, Martha Moxley's accused killer, is full of legalities bound to lengthen the matter's course through the due process of law.

A significant reason for this is that laws which applied in 1975 may not apply now and vice versa. A statute of limitations on murder apparently in effect at the time, the accused's age at the time of the murder and whether or not testimony from Skakel's rehab bunkmates that he confessed can prove strong are all crucial factors. Time is of the essence in several ways.

But one law has been constant throughout. That law is Connecticut Public Act 170 which defines the necessities of "reasonable cause that State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict will have to prove against Skakel in order to prosecute him as an adult. A "reasonable cause" hearing is scheduled for June 20 in Stamford before Juvenile Judge Maureen Dennis.

Data provided to Greenwich Post by Quinnipiac law professor Greg Loken shows Public Act 170 was approved on May 16, 1971, roughly four-and-a-half years before Moxley was murdered.

Still in effect today, the law applies to any child over the age of 14. Michael Skakel was 15 when Moxley was beaten to death with a golf club on Oct. 30, 1975. He has originally been charged as a juvenile for her murder. This law allows for a juvenile to be tried as an adult for murder should the case meet at least some criteria.

A court must believe first and foremost that reasonable cause exists that the "child has committed the act for which he is charged."

According to Stamford criminal defense attorney Bruce Koffsky, a reasonable cause hearing differs from a grand jury hearing in that both the defendant and defense counsel are present. Skakel's lawyer, Michael Sherman, will be permitted to cross-examine witnesses.

Koffsky said he did not know whether the defense would be able to present any evidence in the hearing. Such matters often depend on the strength of the prosecutor's evidence.

"When the prosecution's case is iffy, defense counsel is allowed to come in and present evidence," Koffsky said.

Koffsky added that Skakel might be allowed to present an "offer of proof" -- a list of evidence in his defense and the names of witnesses willing to testify on his behalf.

Once reasonable cause has been established that the suspect has committed the crime, the act states that the prosecution must prove that "there is no state institution designed for the care and treatment of children to which said court may commit such child which is suitable for his care and treatment; or the safety of his community requires that the child continue under restraint for a period extending beyond his majority and; the facilities of the superior court provide a more effective setting for disposition of the case and the institutions to which said court may sentence defendant are more suitable for the care or treatment of such child."

Because of the wording of this act, Loken said he believed the transfer of Michael Skakel's hearing to adult court will be "a formality."

"It may be very difficult for a judge to conclude that [Skakel] can be treated in the juvenile system at the age of 39," Loken said. "And secondly, if he in fact did commit this crime, it's going to be difficult to say public safety is not threatened by him being at large."

Asked if Skakel could still be judged as a threat so many years after Moxley's murder, Loken replied, "I don't think it would be hard for a judge to conclude that if you committed a murder once that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you might commit another violent offense unless you've been punished or rehabilitated."

Neither Benedict nor Sherman could be reached for comment.