Jurors tell Court TV they found Skakel's
alibi hard to believe.
By John Springer - Court TV
GREENWICH, Conn. — Michael Skakel's courtroom demeanor was all wrong and his high-profile defense lawyer underestimated the ability of jurors to recognize a phony alibi when they saw one, four of the jurors who convicted the Kennedy cousin said in an interview with Court TV.
"I did not believe his alibi. There were several holes in that story," said jury foreman Kevin Cambra, making his first national television appearance since Skakel was convicted last Friday of the 1975 killing of Greenwich teen Martha Moxley. "He put himself at the scene of the crime on the night of the murder."
Cambra and jurors Christia Valentino, Cathy Lazansky and Laura Copeland sat down with Court TV's Catherine Crier and celebrity crime writer Dominick Dunne to discuss the sensational case and their reasons for finding Skakel guilty last week after three days of deliberations. The interviews will be aired at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday on Court TV.
When Cambra announced the verdict just before 11 a.m. Friday, Skakel winced, bit his lip and swayed as he stood in place. An audible gasp was heard in the Norwalk courtroom where the jury of six men and six women had been listening to testimony since May 7.
Although many seasoned observers said that the jury would either acquit or deadlock because of a lack of physical evidence, the jurors said that not one member voted not guilty during the many informal polls taken over three days of deliberations. The task from the outset, Cambra said, was to convince the initially undecided, like him, to come to a decision.
"When we initially took the first poll, there were eight guiltys and four undecideds. There was not one not guilty," said Cambra, a father of two who works for a national driver training company.
"I felt the gentleman was guilty," agreed juror Christia Valentino, one of the more vocal members of the jury.
Like Cambra, juror Cathy Lazansky was initially undecided whether prosecutors proved the case beyond the reasonable doubt. Although there was no physical evidence linking Skakel to the crime, he told nearly a dozen people over two decades that he killed Martha or that he was drunk and unsure whether he or one of his brother's killed her.
Martha, a 15-year-old high school sophomore, was found lying face down with her pants and underwear at her ankles on Halloween in 1975. She had been beaten and stabbed to death with a golf club linked to a set owned by Skakel's late mother.
Skakel's much recognized defense lawyer, Mickey Sherman, argued unsuccessfully that the lack of physical evidence and the unreliability of statements his recovering alcoholic client made over the years amounted to reasonable doubt.
Among other things, jurors said the close-knit panel was generally in agreement about the following:
Martha's habits and testimony about barking dogs seemed to indicate that the popular and pretty Skakel neighbor was killed between 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., just as the defense argued. An autopsy never narrowed the time of death from 9:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. and prosecutors argued that Skakel had ample time, motive and opportunity in any event;
- Martha's diary, entered into evidence, provided support for a motive. Martha liked Thomas Skakel and was not interested in Michael Skakel. The defendant told several witness that his "girlfriend" was stolen by his brother, who was seen flirting and play fighting with Martha by the last people known to see her alive;
- Michael Skakel's alibi did not add up. Although two brothers and a cousin testified that Skakel was across town watching television about the time jurors agree Martha was probably attacked, jurors concluded that the relatives are not independent witnesses and the panel found it peculiar that the only thing they could specifically recall was that Michael Skakel left home in a car for the trip;
- Julie Skakel's 1975 statement to police that she assumed a figure she saw dart across the front lawn about 9:30 p.m. was her brother Michael cast doubt about the alibi. Skakel's only sister testified during the trial that it was wrong assumption that the figure she saw the defendant, but jurors decided her 1975 statement that she yelled, "Michael, come back here!" was telling;
- Defense suggestions that a Skakel family tutor, Kenneth Littleton, made admissions to his ex-wife about the crime in 1991 were too far-fetched to raise reasonable doubt. Jurors found Littleton testimony to be believable and found his ex-wife's attempt to get him to confess "cruel" and off-base;
- Jurors were turned off by Skakel's courtroom body language. The foreman said Skakel appeared to be "patronizing" the panel;
- And finally, Skakel's own stories to different people that he did not kill Martha but was at the crime scene masturbating on the night of the murder indicated a consciousness of guilt. Jurors believed he was concerned about the discovery of DNA evidence in late years and was offering stories to explain it. Ironically, no DNA evidence was ever found to link him to the crime.
Although observers opined that police interest in Kenneth Littleton and Thomas Skakel as prime suspects might form reasonable doubt in juror's minds, the four Court TV spoke with this week said they were not distracted from the statements Michael Skakel made.
Prosecutors did not answer all the questions about Thomas Skakel, who was never charged, and jurors wonder whether how much Michael Skakel's family knew about the crime and whether he had assistance disposing of bloody clothes and the handle of the golf club that would have borne the name of the Skakel children's mother.
"There must have been a mess. There had to be a mess. Someone had to help," juror Laura Copeland said.
Skakel, the 41-year-old nephew of Ethel Kennedy, is housed without bail in a western Connecticut prison pending sentencing July 19. He faces 10 years to life in prison, under 1975 guidelines which apply.
Cambra and the jurors who spoke to Crier and Dunne agreed that there job ended with the verdict and they do not plan to watch as Skakel receives punishment.
"I think Michael Skakel will get what he deserves," Cambra said.
The jury foreman added at another point, "When we were going through deliberations, we were so focused on the evidence, the exhibits and the testimony. It had nothing to do with the fact that he was a Kennedy. It had nothing to do with the fact this story is 27 years old."
An appeal is certain. Among other things, Skakel is expected to appeal the transfer of the case from juvenile court to adult court and the judge's instructions to the jury, which the defense considered tipped in favor of the prosecution's largely circumstantial case.