Judge to hear Skakel motion
By J.A. Johnson Jr. - Greenwich Time

Arguments on a defense motion to dismiss the murder charge against Michael Skakel and other pretrial matters will be heard next week in state Superior Court in Stamford.

Judge John Kavanewsky Jr. scheduled a hearing for 10 a.m. Aug. 15, according to the state Judicial Branch.

In May, Skakel filed a motion to dismiss the charge that he murdered 15-year-old Moxley in 1975, contending that a five-year statute of limitations was in effect at the time.

Prosecutors have countered by stating the General Assembly had admittedly erred in imposing a time limit for prosecuting murder cases and amended the law in 1976.

Arguments also will be heard concerning which information from the state's files the defense is entitled to as part of its discovery requests.

On May 21, defense attorney Michael Sherman filed an extensive discovery motion that made 93 specific requests for information or evidence, ranging from names of witnesses the state plans to call, to results of DNA and other forensic tests of evidence.

State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict said, "We've already complied with 99 percent of the discovery request" since Skakel's case was transferred from the Juvenile Matters division to the Criminal Division in February.

"We will be arguing over the discoverability of a number of items we object to," Benedict said.

The prosecutor said the defense is "automatically" entitled to many items it asked for, but the state will fight against releasing other requested items, such as investigators' notes.

"Our position is he's not entitled to that," Benedict said.

"I believe what we asked for is totally appropriate and necessary to defend a 25-year-old murder case," Sherman said. "This will be for the judge to decide."

Other motions on which Kavanewsky must rule include the state's request that members of Skakel's defense team be limited on what they can publicly state about the case.

In a separate but related matter, there is a pending appeal by Skakel of the transfer of his case from juvenile to adult court. The action was initially filed with the Appellate Court, but the state Supreme Court last month agreed to hear the case on an expedited basis after both the defense and prosecution agreed the appeal would end up in the highest court anyway.

At issue is Juvenile Matters Judge Maureen Dennis' Jan. 31 decision to transfer the 40-year-old Skakel's case to adult court. Skakel, nephew of Ethel Skakel Kennedy and the late Robert F. Kennedy, was charged in January 2000 for the 1975 slaying of his 15-year-old Greenwich neighbor.

Skakel appealed Dennis' decision in April, and the following month the Appellate Court denied the state's motion to dismiss the appeal, ordering both sides to file briefs arguing why the matter was appealable.

Benedict filed a motion referring to a law that took effect in 1991, which states a judge's decision to transfer a case from juvenile to adult court is "not a final appealable judgment," meaning that a final disposition of a case, such as a jury verdict, guilty plea or dismissal, must be reached in adult court before the transfer order can be appealed.

Skakel's lawyers filed a brief stating that juvenile court transfers had been considered final judgments when Moxley was killed 26 years ago and that "repeal of a right to appeal cannot be applied retroactively to (Skakel)."

In making her ruling, Dennis had said Skakel had to be tried as an adult because there are no state juvenile facilities that could accommodate the middle-aged defendant.

Defense attorneys had hoped to keep the case in juvenile court, where Skakel faced a maximum sentence of four years in a rehabilitative facility, as opposed to 18 years-to-life in prison if convicted as an adult. In their brief, defense attorneys argue that Dennis erred because there are out-of-state facilities to which Skakel could be sent.

After the transfer to adult court, and following a probable cause hearing in April, Kavanewsky said there was enough evidence for Skakel's case to proceed to trial. Among that evidence was testimony from witnesses who said Skakel, while attending a substance abuse rehabilitation facility with them, had confessed that he had fatally bludgeoned Moxley with a golf club.

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