Skakel jury deliberates over 5 hours
By Lindsey Faber - Greenwich Time
NORWALK -- Jury deliberations began and ended yesterday without a verdict in the murder trial of Michael Skakel, leaving lawyers and family members from both sides pacing the courthouse halls to settle their nerves.
Skakel, 41, is on trial for the 1975 murder of his 15-year-old Belle Haven neighbor Martha Moxley. Moxley was found beaten to death and stabbed through the neck with the broken shaft of a golf club traced to the Skakel home.
Twelve jurors who heard 16 days of testimony deliberated for more than five hours yesterday, taking two short breaks and a one-hour lunch recess. They did not ask for a readback of any testimony. They only requested a chalkboard.
At the end of the day, the jurors asked for five extra minutes, saying they were close to settling one particular point. One juror told Superior Court Judge John Kavanewsky Jr. the group was reviewing the 101 pieces of evidence handed to them from both sides and asked the court clerk to make sure the specific evidence they were reviewing yesterday remained at the top of the evidence box today.
Lawyers said they thought the comment provided a clue into a meticulous, focused jury.
Meanwhile, Skakel's lawyer, Michael Sherman, said he was nauseous waiting for the verdict and dealt with his anxiety by "schmoozing."
"I'd love to break into the courthouse tonight and see that blackboard," Sherman said of the jurors' prop before inviting reporters to join him for drinks at Bleu, on Greenwich Avenue.
He said Skakel was the one who calmed him down.
"He spent most of his time today consoling me because I'm so nervous."
Skakel was all smiles yesterday and did not appear nervous, although some suggested that this was his means of coping.
"All of Skakel's Elan (School) brethren used to say he laughed when he was nervous," said Timothy Dumas, author of "Greentown," a book about the case. "Even people with no personal stake in this are nervous, but he doesn't seem to be on the surface."
Nevertheless, the air was heavy with anticipation in the courtroom yesterday, as reporters, lawyers and family members from both sides roamed the room and waited for any sign from Kavanewsky.
State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict and Deputy Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano, who spent parts of the day negotiating television interviews for the first time, insisted they were as calm as they could be.
"I feel better than I did yesterday," Benedict said. "The fact that the jury is still deliberating means they certainly haven't rejected our case. The longer they think on the case, the better off we think we are."
Morano said prosecutors were confident because their case ended on a strong note.
"We're happy with how the case went in. We got things admitted we never thought we would," Morano said. "But you can never second-guess a jury. All you can do is wait."
Dorthy Moxley, the victim's mother, said the wait did not leave her as agitated as it did others because she was preparing herself for any outcome.
"I have been waiting for so long -- waiting and waiting. Now I would like to see him go to jail," Moxley said. "But if he is acquitted, I will not feel bad. I will just hope he is a better father than his father and that he is a good citizen."
The judge rebuked Skakel late in the morning because he left the courthouse for lunch while the jury was still deliberating.
Kavanewsky told Skakel he must be at the courthouse at all times, except for the lunch hour beginning at 1 p.m.
Both sides wrapped up their cases Monday with 90-minute closing arguments. Benedict argued that Skakel had "dug himself a hole" by talking agitatedly about the crime the day after it happened, actually placing himself at the crime scene later and confessing to at least a dozen people in the years since Moxley's murder.
Benedict asserted that Skakel changed his alibi in the early 1990s and committed the crime out of rage and passion. He also said the missing handle of the golf club from the crime scene would have significance only to a Skakel, since the label on the handle bore the name of Skakel's deceased mother.
Sherman argued that the state's case raised more questions than it answered, and that there is too much doubt to support a conviction.
He also reminded the jury of past suspects in the case and said the state's case has been weakened by an investigation that at different points has focused on three suspects: Skakel, his brother Thomas Skakel and the family tutor, Kenneth Littleton.
He insisted Skakel is not mean-spirited enough to commit such a crime.
Jury deliberations resume today at state Superior Court in Norwalk.