Skakel statements on docket again

Skakel back on docket

A new round of arguments could begin early next month on whether prosecutors can use as evidence testimony concerning incriminating statements Martha Moxley murder suspect Michael Skakel allegedly made while being treated for alcohol abuse.

Superior Court Judge Edward Stodolink, whose ruling that a grand jury could consider the disputed evidence against suspect Michael Skakel was overturned last month by the state Appellate Court, has scheduled a new hearing on the matter for Oct. 5, according to Skakel's attorney, Michael Sherman.

Sherman said he was notified of the hearing Thursday.

On Dec. 10, Stodolink ruled that Joseph Ricci, owner of Elan School, must testify before the grand jury about any statements Skakel made relating to the Moxley murder while at Ricci's treatment center in Poland Spring, Maine.

In so ruling, the judge denied Skakel's motion to block Ricci's testimony on the grounds that all of Skakel's statements and communications while at Elan School are protected by physician-patient privilege.

In its decision last month, the Appellate Court determined Stodolink erred in determining Skakel had not proved Elan School was a mental health facility and therefore subject to confidentiality laws. The Appellate Court sided with Skakel's claims that alcohol-related disorders are considered mental conditions by the psychiatric community.

In overturning the lower court's decision, the Appellate Court also stated that Stodolink had failed to apply federal regulations governing alcohol abuse treatment centers that were in effect when Skakel attended Elan School from 1979 to 1980.

What was unclear from appellate ruling - and what will be hashed out in the new round of arguments - was how it applied to testimony already in evidence. Several former Elan School residents and staff members are among the witnesses who have appeared before the grand jury since it was convened in June 1998.

Michael and Thomas Skakel, the only two identified suspects in the Moxley murder, were said by police to have both been with the victim the night she was slain, Oct. 30, 1975. The Skakels at the time were teenage neighbors of the 15-year-old victim, who, police said, was bludgeoned and stabbed with a golf club that belonged to the Skakel family.

Michael Skakel was admitted to Elan School after his arrest for a drunken driving incident in which he attempted to run down a police officer before crashing his car in Windham, N.Y. Prosecutors have alleged Skakel made "admissions" about the murder while at the treatment center.