"Skakel Sr. to Testify"
By J.A. Johnson Jr., Greenwich Time
The father of the two suspects in the 1975 Martha Moxley murder must testify
before the Connecticut grand jury investigating the Greenwich girl's brutal
slaying, a Florida appeals court ruled yesterday.
The ruling comes nearly a year after Rushton Skakel Sr. was summoned from
his home in Hobe Sound, Fla., to provide testimony in the Bridgeport-based probe
targeting sons Michael and Thomas Skakel.
The three judges of the 4th District Court of Appeal unanimously rejected
arguments that the 74-year-old Skakel is mentally incompetent to provide
testimony and that traveling to Connecticut would be an undue hardship.
The appellate court instead gave more weight to a Connecticut investigator's
affidavit to the Florida trial court stating the suspects' father had attended a
meeting at a drug and alcohol treatment center during which "Michael made
certain admissions regarding his involvement in the murder."
West Palm Beach attorney Richard Lubin, who represented Skakel in the
competency hearing and appeal, said no further attempts to block the subpoena
would be made.
"Let's just get it over with," Lubin said. "The state (of Connecticut) will
find out Mr. Skakel knows nothing of the offense, so let's be done with it. He's
every bit as incompetent as he was during the original hearing."
Skakel, formerly of Greenwich, was subpoenaed to appear before the grand
jury on Sept. 21. In issuing the order, Connecticut Superior Court Judge John
Ronan certified Skakel as a "material and necessary" witness based on the facts
that Moxley was killed with a 6-iron from a set of golf clubs owned by the
Skakel family, and that the murder occurred near the Skakel residence.
Police said Michael and Thomas Skakel were with Moxley, then 15, the night
of the crime, and prosecutors have since alleged both suspects significantly
changed their original alibis in recent years.
After the elder Skakel was subpoenaed, his attorneys quickly moved to block
the order on the incompetency and hardship claims. In an Oct. 16 hearing in
Martin County Circuit Court in Florida, Skakel's wife, priest, physician and
maid gave testimony that portrayed Skakel as someone suffering from a
schizophrenic-type disorder, who "belly bumps" strangers and cannot remember the
names of family members and friends, no less events concerning a 23-year-old
In rejecting the motion, Martin County Judge John Fennelly stated that the
seriousness of the crime being investigated in Connecticut outweighed any
hardship Skakel might endure.
The judge also noted in his Nov. 10 ruling that he was unable to observe
Skakel's potential as a witness since he was never called to testify on his own
behalf. Fennelly also quoted a psychiatric evaluation presented by Skakel's own
physician that stated Skakel "feigns sickness and has instantaneous recoveries."
After several delays, mostly due to the misplacement of trial court
documents, arguments on the appeal of Fennelly's ruling were finally heard June
The Connecticut grand jury's work reportedly is largely done, with the only
remaining hurdle being the pending decision of another appeal concerning
In December, a Superior Court judge ruled that the owner of the Maine rehab
center where Michael Skakel allegedly made incriminating admissions must
testify. Michael Skakel appealed on claims that, among other things, allowing
such testimony would violate the doctor-patient privilege.
Prosecutors have said Elan School owner Joseph Ricci's testimony is needed
because Michael Skakel allegedly made the admissions upon being confronted by
Ricci at the Poland Spring, Maine, facility. Several former residents and staff
members of Elan School have already appeared before the grand jury, but their
testimony would have to be disregarded as evidence should the Appellate Court
rule in Michael Skakel's favor.