'Theater of the Bizarre'
in Connecticut

Skakel Murder Trial Has It All -- Even Mark Fuhrman
By David J. Krajicek - APBNews.com

Reporters covering the Michael Skakel murder case in Connecticut are beginning to wonder whether they are unwitting extras in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

The case concerns the homicide 25 years ago of teenager Martha Moxley, beaten to death in Greenwich, Conn., one of America's most affluent cities. The accused killer, Skakel, is a Kennedy scion who has been all but excommunicated by his famous family.

News crews arrived at Skakel's preliminary hearing in Stamford expecting "an irresistible examination of the confluence of money, power, sex, and murder," as Brian MacQuarrie wrote in The Boston Globe.

They got much more.

'I feel your pain'

Skakel got the proceedings off on the left foot, appropriately, when he approached the mother of the murdered girl at his arraignment and said, "I feel your pain."

The preliminary hearing featured a defense attorney, Mickey Sherman, who is best buddies with singer Michael Bolton yet has a tin ear for inappropriate asides. (So far, he hasn't topped his best worst stunt: While working a hunting-violation case, he arrived in court with rubber duck feet protruding from his attache case.)

Hanging around the fringes is Mark Fuhrman, the racially twisted former Los Angeles police detective who became an attraction in the O.J. Simpson carnival. Fuhrman wrote a book about the Moxley murder. His literary mentor, Dominick Dunne, whose novel A Season in Purgatory played off the Moxley slaying, covered the hearing for Vanity Fair.

Skakel himself has literary aspirations. He has shopped a book proposal about his life. It's the usual stuff: acne, weight problems, adolescent alcoholism, murder allegations.

Unusual school experience

Crime Beat would pay to read Skakel's account of his experiences at the Elan School, a type of reformatory for rich teens (tuition is in the prison zone, about $50,000 a year) in Poland Spring, Maine. Two former schoolmates testified at his hearing that the school featured administration-sanctioned beatings of insolent students by a "goon squad" of peers. The beatings were known as "haircuts."

Journalist Jeffrey Toobin was so moved by this weirdness that he fired off a brief piece to The New Yorker that featured the school, not the hearing. Elan staffers tried to convince Toobin that the school is not so weird. Toobin did not appear convinced.

The Globe's MacQuarrie wrote that the courtroom drama seems "better suited to the theater of the bizarre." Should the judge order Skakel bound over for trial, media passes to Act II would be hot tickets.

Crime Beat Nits and Picks

The St. Louis Riverfront Times reports that Deanne Lane, anchor/reporter with KSDK-TV in the Gateway City, enclosed a 3-by-5 photo of herself in an letter she wrote to a St. Louis serial rapist requesting an interview. Many reporters were parrying for a sit-down with the man, who admitted raping 14 women and will spend his life in prison. Was the attractive journalist trying to suck up inappropriately? She claimed she didn't remember sending the photo. But the rapist's attorney, Terri Johnson, said, "Think about it: sending a picture of yourself to a sex offender. What do you think he's gonna do with it?" Postscript: She didn't get the interview.

For a sterling example of sociological crime journalism, see the July 3 issue of The New Yorker. Peter J. Boyer's 10,000-word piece about the February shooting of a 6-year-old schoolgirl by a classmate near Flint, Mich., delves into the lives of the mothers of the victim, Kayla Rollands, and the boy who shot her.

David J. Krajicek is an award-winning journalist, former chief of the New York Daily News' six-person police bureau and an APBnews.com contributing editor. A former professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, he is the author of the 1998 book SCOOPED! Media Miss Real Story on Crime While Chasing Sex, Sleaze and Celebrities DKrajicek@aol.com.

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