Skakel attorneys claim prosecutors
withheld key evidence
By Kevin McCallum - Stamford Advocate
Prosecutors violated Michael Skakel's right to a fair trial when they failed to turn over a sketch of a man spotted walking near Martha Moxley's home around the time she was killed, defense attorneys argued in motions filed yesterday.
The sketch bears a "striking resemblance" to former Skakel tutor Kenneth Littleton, Hartford attorneys Hope Seeley and Hubert Santos argued in their motion for a new trial. Skakel might never have been convicted if defense attorneys had the sketch at trial, the lawyers said.
Skakel was convicted on June 7 of beating to death his neighbor, Moxley, with a golf club on Oct. 30, 1975, near their homes in the Belle Haven section of Greenwich. He is set to be sentenced tomorrow in state Superior Court in Norwalk.
The motion, and several others filed after Skakel's conviction, are expected to be heard before Skakel is sentenced.
"One of the defenses pursued at trial involved a claim that Kenneth Littleton may have been the killer," Skakel's attorneys argued in the motion. "Disclosure of the composite drawing would have been the linchpin for such a defense, and in all likelihood would have resulted in a verdict of not guilty."
Skakel's trial attorney, Michael Sherman, asked prosecutors for sketches of other suspects and any other evidence favorable to Skakel before the trial, but never received the sketch, the motion states.
Skakel's lawyers only received a copy of the sketch Wednesday, according to the motion.
Prosecutors declined to discuss the latest round of motions.
"We received quite a few motions today and we are examining them and will be responding in the appropriate fashion in court," Deputy Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano said yesterday.
A week after Skakel's conviction, Sherman filed a motion for a new trial, citing 18 errors allegedly committed by prosecutors and the court during the five-week trial. Seeley and Santos, hired by Skakel's family to handle his appeal, list 26 separate alleged errors in their motion.
A number of the alleged errors deal with the conduct of State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict, such as inflaming the jury during the closing argument or making improper comments, such as calling Skakel a "spoiled brat."
Others deal with the way Judge John Kavanewsky handled the trial, such as admitting hearsay or giving improper instructions to the jury.
But the most potent issue raised in the new motions is the missing sketch. The attorneys request Kavanewsky hold a hearing on the matter.
"The State's failure to provide this exculpatory information to the defendant not only deprived him of valid and fair reasonable cause and probable cause hearings, but it impacted his ability to prepare a defense at trial in violation of (the Constitution)," the motion states.
According to the motion, the sketch is of a man spotted by a Belle Haven security guard in the neighborhood on the evening of Oct. 30, 1975.
Charles Morganti, the security guard, reported to Greenwich police in the early days of the investigation that he stopped and spoke with a 6-foot tall, 200-pound white man wearing glasses, a green fatigue jacket and tan pants walking in the area around 8 p.m.
The man, later identified as 23-year-old Carl Wold, told the guard he was returning to his home on Walsh Lane, the same road as Moxley's home.
Morganti told investigators that he "believes he may have seen the same individual" between 9:30 and 10 p.m. walking through a yard across the street from the Skakel house, the motion states.
Moxley's house was located across the street from Skakel's home.
But Wold said he never went out again after returning home around 8 p.m.
Skakel's attorneys conclude Morganti must have seen someone who looked like Wold near the Skakel home around 10 p.m.
Included in the motion are affidavits from siblings Julie Skakel and John Skakel, both of whom say Littleton was about 6-feet tall in 1975 and that the sketch has the "same general physical appearance" as Littleton.
Armed with this information, Sherman could have cast doubt on Littleton's testimony that he never strayed from the Skakel property when he investigated a "commotion" outside around 9:30 p.m., the motion states.
Prosecutors granted Littleton, who now suffers from bipolar disorder, immunity in exchange for his testimony in the case. Benedict said after the verdict that he had no doubt Littleton had anything to do with the crime.
Littleton's attorney, Eugene Riccio of Bridgeport, said he was disappointed Skakel's attorneys continue to paint his client as the real killer.
"I think that Ken Littleton will forever be the whipping boy for the Skakel defense, and that no matter what happens, there will always be finger pointing at him, unfairly and unjustly so, in my view," Riccio said.
Stamford criminal defense attorney Joseph Colarusso, however, called the allegation "very troubling."
"A sketch of a suspect that is produced shortly after the crime is very significant evidence, and the fact that the defendant did not have access to that, I think opens up many avenues of exploration not only of the prosecution's case, but also real questions as to the police investigation of the crime," Colarusso said.
The case of Brady v. Maryland outlines the rules that govern what information prosecutors must turn over to defense attorneys, Colarusso said.
Prosecutors failing to abide by such rules can prompt appellate courts to strike down convictions and order new trials, he said.
"Brady violations are the type that reversals are made of, absolutely," he said. "Judge Kavanewsky will look at this very seriously, and will give it the appropriate weight."