NET LIFE; Skakel sites model of decorum
Stephanie Schorow - Boston Herald
The Martha Moxley murder trial may be over, but the appeals continue, as do a couple of Web sites offering alternative views of the horrific 1975 crime.
After decades of controversy, Michael Skakel, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, was convicted last week of killing his Greenwich, Conn., neighbor, 15-year-old Moxley. Skakel was also 15 at the time.
The site www.marthamoxley.com, created by a former junior high classmate of Martha, will stay active as "as a testament to not only Martha, but to her mother Dorthy, brother John and other family and friends, prosecutors and investigators who would not rest until the truth was told and the guilty, jailed," said Web master Tom Alessi.
Likewise, www.camp-skakel.com, launched by a California resident convinced of Skakel's innocence, will continue to argue that Skakel was "railroaded and used as a scapegoat by those wishing to restore Greenwich's tarnished image and reputation," said Web mistress Karen Kerby.
What is astonishing about these two supposedly "dueling" Web sites is the high quality of the information they contain and the surprisingly polite (for the Web) opinions posted about the case. Both sites make some effort to provide a neutral platform for discussion and both have links to multiple sources of information about the case. To look through both is to get a sense of what may have passed through the minds of the jurors as they sifted through the evidence. On the Web, where arguments often degenerate into illiterate flaming and wild conspiracy theories pass for reasoned analysis, this is remarkable.
Four years ago, Alessi launched www.marthamoxley.com to draw attention to "The Unsolved Mystery of Who Murdered Martha Moxley." He runs no advertising and takes no donations. The site contains the latest news, plus archives of articles, photos, Skakel's own book proposal, excerpts from Martha's diary, and even a map of the crime scene. Those interested in the minutiae of the case may also follow links to the Sutton Report, a private detective's report commissioned by Skakel's father.
On June 10, the day Skakel was convicted, Alessi changed the word "unsolved" to "solved" on the opening page. "It was very satisfying and something I really NEVER thought I would be able to do," he wrote in an e-mail to me.
Kerby launched www.camp-skakel.com in May 2000 after reading former Los Angeles detective Mark Fuhrman's book about the case; she had also participated in a message board, now offline, at marthamoxley.com. As for her motivation, she insisted in an e-mail that "the plain and simply truth is . . . I firmly believe Michael Skakel is innocent." The site contains information on the case, background on the Skakels and Kennedys and a photo gallery that includes a surprisingly affecting photo of a long-haired and baby- faced 15-year-old Skakel, a striking contrast to the portly, dissipated adult at the trial.
A Californian who has never visited the East Coast, Kerby believes the Skakel and Kennedy families are viewed more impartially outside of New England and that a fair trial for Skakel could only have been held in an area where "the Kennedys and the Skakels are not hated simply for their names."
The folks posting at Camp-Skakel's message boards discuss the case with surprising depth and bring up numerous issues probably not admissible in court, such as whether drinking and smoking pot can cause a person to forget doing a brutal act.
The discussions (which only rarely become profane) reiterate the reason that we have a jury system drawn from "average people."
Those considering creating Web sites about other unsolved cases or to champion a cause could learn something from these two sites. Alessi suggests that grassroots Web masters avoid taking advertising or soliciting money for their efforts. "Money taints the truth," he said. "Stay out of the limelight; the case and the story is not about the Web site. If you are in it for the publicity, you are not doing it for the right reason."
And, in what must be the hardest act of all, "Try to stay neutral even if you know in your heart who was responsible."