How Skakel spent last night of freedom
He told friend verdict was 'in God's hands'
By Ken Borsuk and Peter Moore - Greenwich Post
Last Thursday night, Joey Testa had dinner with his friend Michael Skakel at
the home of Skakel's aunt Anne McCooey. Unbeknownst to either man, it would
be Skakel's last night of freedom.
That night, Testa, 24, of Greenwich, said family members were extremely
nervous. All except Skakel.
"He was at peace," Testa said, of Skakel, a reportedly devout Catholic who
had told those close to him that he had placed the verdict of his murder
trial "in God's hands."
Testa said he'd kept Skakel "in my prayers every day." On Friday morning,
before the verdict, he called a Skakel family priest, leaving a voice-mail
"Tell Michael he's in the palm of God's hand," Testa told the priest.
Then Testa got news of the verdict from his New York City workplace: Guilty.
"And I thought, 'Where is God in all this?'" Testa said.
The guilty verdict in the murder trial of Michael Skakel left his supporters
in stunned disbelief.
Skakel was found guilty for the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley and faces up to
life in prison.
After waiting in obvious and largely silent tension, an audible gasp rang
out in the courtroom when jury foreman Kevin Cambra, of Wilton, announced
the verdict. As the happy and relieved faces filled the rows of the Moxley
friends and family, the Skakel family was left in tears.
Michael's brother, David Skakel, and McCooey wept openly after the verdict
and, as the family and supporters gathered, eyes turned red. Skakel's
attorneys, Michael Sherman, Mark Sherman and Jason Throne, appeared shocked
by the verdict and joined the family and friends in an air of devastated
silence as the court cleared.
Skakel family members began reacting as soon as the verdict was announced
and appeared horrified as handcuffs were slapped on one of their own. Skakel
flinched when Cambra intoned the word "guilty."
Then after the jury was polled. Judge John Kavanewsky, Jr. asked lawyers for
the prosecution and defense if they had anything to say before he excused
"I'd like to say something," Skakel interrupted.
"No sir," Kavanewsky said quickly.
As Skakel was being handcuffed, David Skakel reached out to touch his
brother's shoulder. A judicial marshal pushed his hand away.
The verdict left all the members of the family visibly shaken and stunned
among the happy cheers of the Moxleys and members of the public. Skakel's
family and friends milled around each other almost aimlessly as they
struggled to come to terms with the verdict. Supportive and comforting hugs
were traded and an unidentified family friend remarked, "How quickly can we
get in the cars and go?"
The Skakel family members and supporters were the last to leave the
courtroom and quickly went into another vacant courtroom to compose
themselves. Vito Colucci, Jr., a private investigator retained by Michael
Sherman to work on the case, said tears were shed by just about everyone in
the meeting, including the attorneys.
However, Colucci said that the Skakel's were ready for the legal fights that
were still to come.
"Their resolve is very strong," Colucci said. "They're a very tight-knit
"Michael is innocent," David Skakel, Michael's younger brother, said outside
the courthouse after the verdict was delivered. "I know it because I know
him like only a brother knows. Our family has under great suspicion for 27
years. We all stand behind Michael not out of loyalty, but out of intimate
David Skakel, who lives in Oregon, said the Skakel family had the deepest
respect for the Moxleys and he said he understood their desire for closure
in the death of Martha. However, he added that his brother was innocent.
"The truth is more important than closure," he said.
Stephen Skakel had been the most visible member of the family throughout the
trial. He appeared in court with his brother every day since the beginning
of jury selection and he too appeared devastated by the verdict.
"I love my brother and I believe he's innocent," he said. "I will fight for
him with my last breath."
Sherman said many people held the wrong idea about Michael Skakel. He said
he had been spun into an arrogant brat who thought he could get away with
Sherman said Skakel was "a genuine and sincere person."
The emotional reaction to the verdict didn't stop with Skakel's family,
friends and attorneys. People who have worked for Skakel also expressed
their shock and dismay.
"I feel like I lost a brother today," said Kris Steele, Skakel's bodyguard.
"It's not a feeling I wish on anyone.
"I'm devastated," he later added. "I believed in him since day one. Never in
my mind, as I sat there in the courtroom every day, did I think there would
be a guilty verdict."
Steele and Colucci, who also declared his belief in Skakel's innocence, said
they would stand behind Skakel throughout the appeals process.
Details of the appeal were unavailable at press time.
Steele stated the widely held view that the end of the road for this case is
a long way off.
"I don't think anyone thinks this is really over," Steele said. "There's a
lot to come."
Of his client, Steele added, "He knew in his heart he didn't do it."
Testa, Skakel's friend, said he expected Skakel would eventually be
"I'm sure what is wrong today will be corrected," he said.