Skakel defense rests
By Lindsey Faber - Greenwich Time
NORWALK -- Michael Skakel's defense rested yesterday, bringing testimony to a close in the celebrated murder trial.
In the coming days, the jury will use mostly circumstantial evidence to resolve or let linger the 27-year-old mystery of Martha Moxley's slaying.
It was anything but a dramatic ending for a case that drew national attention during the quarter of a century in which police and reporters investigated it.
Skakel, 41, is on trial for Moxley's murder. She was found dead in her family's Belle Haven yard on Halloween in 1975. Both Moxley and Skakel were 15 at the time and neighborhood friends. The murder weapon was a golf club traced to the Skakel home.
Skakel did not take the stand in his own defense. He has maintained his innocence through his lawyer, Michael Sherman, who said it was his decision to keep his client off the stand.
"He always wanted to testify," Sherman said, adding that it was not necessary because prosecutors played a tape of Skakel describing his whereabouts on the night in question.
The defense capped off its case with four witnesses yesterday, including Edwin Jones, who worked at a Greenwich bank; John Skakel, Michael's older brother; former Detective James Lunney and Dr. Joseph Jachimczyk, a former Texas medical examiner who aided the Greenwich Police Department in its efforts to pinpoint the time of Moxley's death.
At times, some of the witnesses seemed to add to the state's case.
Lunney, who had already testified for the prosecution, addressed changes in Skakel's alibi. Skakel did not admit to police in 1975 that he left the house again after returning from his cousin's home around 11:15 p.m. on Oct. 30, Lunney said.
In 1975, Lunny asked Skakel if he went to sleep right away or if he read or watched TV, according to police reports.
"No. I went to sleep right away," Skakel said in 1975.
The jury had already heard a tape of Skakel in which he admitted that he left the house again, climbed a tree on the Moxley property and masturbated.
Skakel's story changed in the early 1990s when his family hired a private investigations firm, Sutton Associates, to investigate the crime. Sherman maintains that Skakel's story changed because he had been embarrassed to admit the masturbation.
According to police reports, Skakel also pointed police in 1975 toward a neighborhood visitor whom he suspected was capable of killing Moxley.
"Like, a lot of times when he drives by he'll just floor his car and yell at us and give us the finger," Skakel told Lunney in 1975, referring to an unnamed person. "He's got the worst temper."
He also referred police to another area resident who "could have done it, but he was at college."
Jachimczyk, a former county medical examiner in Texas and a retired forensic pathologist, said he estimated the time of death to be about 10 p.m., give or take an hour on either end.
He estimated the time of death based on the level of rigor mortis on Moxley's body, the contents of her stomach at the time of her death and two circumstantial details -- her curfew, believed to be about 10 p.m., and reports of dogs barking wildly in the area at that hour, he said.
Jachimczyk acknowledged on cross-examination that the determination could not be precise.
The state's medical examiner, Dr. H. Wayne Carver, testified earlier in the case that he could not pinpoint the time of death, saying evidence was consistent with a 10 p.m. murder but also could be consistent with a time closer to midnight or 1 a.m.
John Skakel of Portland, Ore., defended a 1975 statement he made to police, in which he said Michael was one of his family members who went to their cousin's home in the backcountry on the night Moxley was killed.
But under cross-examination yesterday, John Skakel also admitted he could no longer recall who took that trip to the Terrien home.
"I'd love nothing more than to have a clearer memory," he said.
John Skakel testified that he awoke that night at 11:33 p.m. and heard a rustling in the family's mud room, which shared a common wall with his bedroom.
The family often kept golf clubs that matched the murder weapon in that room of the house, he said.
John Skakel also said he did not remember the details of his interview with police. His brother Rushton Jr. and his cousin James Dowdle, formerly James Terrien, also have testified that they could not remember their interviews with police.
The defense also called Jones, who worked at Greenwich Federal Savings bank and knew Larry Zicarelli, the former Skakel family driver and a bank customer.
Sherman had intended to call Jones to raise questions about Zicarelli's credibility. The former driver was "essentially mouthing off about the case," the attorney said.
The plan was only partially successful.
Jones said Zicarelli, who often drove Skakel around, confided in him with knowledge of the case.
"He told me that Michael confessed to the murder of Martha," Jones said.
But Zicarelli, during his own testimony, did not say Skakel actually confessed to the murder of Moxley.
"He said to me he was very sorry, but he had done something very bad and he had to either kill himself or get out of the country," Zicarelli said during his May 16 testimony.
Sherman pointed out to the court that Jones told State Inspector Frank Garr in 1993 that Zicarelli said Skakel "all but confessed."
Prosecutors are expected to call several rebuttal witnesses today, including Julie Skakel, Michael's only sister. They have also issued a subpoena for Leonard Levitt, a reporter who has covered the case for 20 years and wrote an extensive 1991 article for Greenwich Time that detailed the case from 400 pages of police reports and more than 100 interviews.