Skakel takes first step toward appeal
By Matt Bean - Court TV
Michael Skakel took his first step toward appealing his conviction for the murder of Martha Moxley when his lawyers filed a bid for a new trial late Wednesday, claiming that bloody photos of the victim prejudiced the jury.
"This was a case in which the prosecution used cumulative, graphic and gruesome photographs of the victim to shock and inflame, rather than to inform," argued defense attorney Mickey Sherman in the motion filed in Connecticut Supreme Court.
In all, Sherman marshaled 18 separate reasons for overturning the jury's guilty verdict last Friday, citing everything from excerpts from Martha Moxley's diary that were admitted into evidence to the prosecution's powerful closing argument as grounds for a new trial. Prosecutors did not return calls seeking comment.
"Ignorance, prejudice, corruption and partiality. These are the ingredients from which new trials have been distilled in this state," writes Sherman in a memorandum supporting the motion. "And they are the ingredients which permeated and fatally infected the trial of defendant Michael Skakel."
Reached on his cell phone, the lawyer said that statements made by jurors after the trial — including those featured in a Court TV special program which aired Tuesday night — prompted some of his arguments for a new trial.
It took the jury five days to find Skakel guilty of the 27-year-old crime, which left 15-year-old Martha Moxley, his neighbor in the exclusive Greenwich, Conn., neighborhood of Belle Haven, beaten and impaled by a golf club in the woods behind their homes.
Skakel faces up to life in prison, but could get at as few as 10 years when he is sentenced July 19.
The motion for a new trial, said Sherman, was an extension of a motion he made for a new trial following the verdict last week. Judge John Kavanewsky denied the motion, but still asked Sherman to put his argument in writing. A full appeal, said the lawyer, will be filed after the sentencing.
Other errors Sherman cites in the 16-page filing help to sketch out the lawyer's appeal strategy that could unfold in the coming months. Posthumous testimony of Gregory Coleman, a witness who said in pre-trial proceedings that Skakel confessed to killing Martha but died of a drug overdose last summer, was improperly admitted, said the lawyer.
Sherman also claimed that the prosecution's mid-trial disclosure of the arrest warrant for Skakel's brother, Thomas Skakel, and the viewing of videotaped police interviews from 1992 interrogation of Kenneth Littleton, the live-in tutor with the Skakel family at the time of the murder, were improper. Both Thomas Skakel and Kenneth Littleton were considered early suspects in the case.
The prosecution's approach to the case, Sherman also argued, turned the trial into a sort of upper crust family feud. "Although the official title of this case is State v. Michael Skakel," he writes in the motion, "the theme and subtext of the case was, in essence, The Moxleys v. The Skakels."