Transfer of Skakel Case Expected
Prosecutor contemplates dropping
charges if case stays in juvenile court
Kellie A. Wagner, The Connecticut Law Tribune
Both prosecution and defense teams are
expecting 39-year-old Michael Skakel to stand
trial as an adult for the 1975 murder of
Greenwich, Conn., teenager Martha Moxley.
Connecticut State's Attorney Jonathan C.
Benedict said that while it is conceivable that
Judge Maureen Dennis might keep the Skakel case
in juvenile court, he was confident the case
would be transferred to Superior Court.
Benedict said he might not prosecute Skakel
should Dennis decide he should be tried as a
Dennis handed down her memorandum of decision
on August 17, ruling the state had proved
reasonable cause to proceed against the Kennedy
cousin for the brutal slaying of his
15-year-old neighbor, Martha Moxley.
Under the state's Transfer Act of 1970, Dennis
cannot ship the case to Superior Court until a
probation officer has investigated Skakel's
background. Among other things, the probation
officer must consider whether or not there is a
facility to house Skakel should he be tried as
a juvenile, and whether the safety of the
community requires Skakel to be jailed at all.
Benedict said that if Skakel were to remain in
a juvenile setting, it would be fruitless for
the state to pursue the case.
"There would be no remedy," Benedict said of
trying to punish Skakel under juvenile terms.
"There would be no probation. No jail time.
You'd be trying a case for nothing,"
According to Benedict, juveniles in 1975 were
often not charged with a specific crime but
rather labeled as juvenile delinquents who
could be rehabilitated, rather than jailed, at
the court's discretion.
In addition, the statue of limitations for
sentencing juveniles in 1975 was five years, or
until the child became an adult.
"It is kind of obvious the court did not
contemplate a case with a 39-year-old
defendant," Benedict said.
Skakel's Stamford, Conn., attorney, Michael
"Mickey" Sherman, of Sherman & Richichi, said
he was very surprised Benedict said he might
not pursue the case if it remained at the
But Sherman said it made sense.
"It is logical," Sherman said. "John is a very
straight forward, no-nonsense guy. I give him a
lot of credit."
Sherman said he too expects the case will be
transferred to Superior Court. He said he still
disagrees with Dennis on her finding of
"Obviously I disagree," Sherman also told Court
TV earlier this month. "I don't believe
reasonable cause does exist. But I'm not
Dennis said in her decision that she found
state's witnesses John Higgins and Gregory
Coleman, classmates of Skakel's from Maine's
Elan School for troubled youth, as well as
Andrew Pugh, a neighbor of Skakel's from
Greenwich, credible and that none of the
defense's witnesses directly refuted the
essence of their testimony.
Tara Knight, a criminal law specialist with New
Haven, Conn.'s Knight & Conway who aided the
Elan School counsel during earlier grand jury
proceedings against Skakel, said she disagreed
with Dennis on the credibility of the witnesses
from the school.
"I am familiar with the evidence and it's
shocking," Knight said of the witnesses'
inconsistent testimony. "These are 25-year-old
memories of substance abusers."
Knight did agree with Benedict that prosecuting
Skakel as a juvenile would be a waste of time,
especially since Skakel has lead an exemplary
life since he left the Elan School in the late
However, Frank Garr, one of the original
investigators of the Moxley murder with the
Greenwich Police Department, predicted the case
would be transferred to an adult court within a
"It always bothered me that never enough work
was done in investigating Michael," said Garr,
now an inspector in Benedict's office.
Both Garr and Benedict said they had "a lot
more evidence" to present against Skakel,
should the case be transferred, but declined to
David Fein, an attorney with Stamford's Wiggin
& Dana representing the media, has asked Dennis
to open court records in the case, including
the arrest warrant and supporting affidavits.
Dennis has sealed the records as they would be
in juvenile court. Fein said he is keeping a
close watch over whether the case will be
transferred, and is concerned Dennis would keep
the records sealed even if Skakel is
transferred to Superior Court.
"There would be very compelling reasons for us
to have them opened," Fein said.