Tree episode fodder for late night shows
By By Eve Sullivan - Greenwich Time

NORWALK -- Martha Moxley's family has said that her accused killer's alibi is a joke.

Now that is what it has become.

In his monologue Tuesday, "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno quipped about Michael Ska kel's alibi that he was masturbating in a tree outside Moxley's window on the night she was killed Oct. 30, 1975.

"This was in The New York Times today: Yesterday at the murder trial of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel . . . you know this big case . . . 25-year-old murder case?" Leno asked his audience, according to a transcript. "He's finally going on trial. Two alibi witnesses said that Michael Skakel told them at the time of the murder, at the time the murder happened, he was masturbating in a tree. How embarrassing! I would rather confess to the murder, wouldn't you? I mean, please, please. What was that? What was that?"

The late-night talk show host brought up the Skakel trial a second time while interviewing his guest, actor Hugh Grant.

After Grant said something, Leno responded, "You know, suddenly that guy masturbating in the tree doesn't seem that odd to me any more."

The two then joked and laughed about the topic for a few seconds.

Skakel, 41, is on trial for beating his neighbor to death with a golf club in Belle Haven when both were 15.

The case has drawn national attention, mainly because Skakel is the nephew of Ethel Kennedy, widow of U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

The trial, which started May 7, also was mentioned this week on "The Howard Stern Show," when co-host Robin Quivers said that no one would care about the case if Skakel wasn't a Kennedy cousin.

David Letterman, a former New Canaan resident, joked about Skakel on his CBS show in 2000 after he was called to jury duty.

"I don't want no shoplifting case," Letterman said. "Save up something big like that Skakel trial."

John Moxley, Martha's brother, said yesterday that talk show hosts are just making "social commentary" and he is not offended.

"There's a lot of absurd things in his alibi -- 'I'm not a murderer,' but he put himself at the scene," Moxley said. "He came up with an alibi because he had to account for physical evidence when Henry Lee got involved."

Lee is the renowned Connecticut forensic scientist who examined evidence in the murder case.

Moxley said he can't view the case objectively, but he understands how comedians use "parody" and "sarcastic humor."

"My take on Jay Leno or any late-night talk show host is that they pick outrageous things because they are outrageous," Moxley said.

Neither State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict nor defense attorney Michael Sherman watched the show. Sherman, known for his wit in the courtroom, said he's not displeased with Leno's comments.

"For me to be upset by someone making a joke is pretty inappropriate," Sherman said. "I wish I'd seen it. It sounds pretty funny."

On Monday, two of Skakel's friends told the jury that he said he was masturbating in a tree outside Moxley's home on the night of her murder.

Tuesday, the prosecution entered into evidence a tape of Skakel talking about the incident. The tape was recorded in February 1997, when Skakel spoke to ghost writer Richard Hoffman about his proposed autobiography, "Dead Man Talking: A Kennedy Cousin Comes Clean."

Skakel said he climbed a tree outside Moxley's house, threw rocks or sticks at a window, and called out her name.

"I don't know, I guess I'm a little out of my mind, because I was drunk and high," the tape said. "I pulled down my pants and masturbated for 30 seconds in the tree, and I went, 'This is crazy. If they catch me, they're gonna think I'm nuts.' "

Skakel said he climbed down the tree, then crossed the circular driveway, where investigators found blood and part of the golf club used in the attack.

Skakel said when he learned about the murder the next day, he thought, "Oh my God, if I tell anybody that I was out that night, they're gonna say I did it."

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