Prosecutor: Skakel's incompetency not proven
By J.A. Johnson Jr., Staff Writer, Greenwich Time

A hearing held in Florida earlier this month failed to prove that Rushton Skakel Sr. is incompetent to testify before the Connecticut grand jury that is investigating the 1975 slaying of Martha Moxley, according to a brief filed yesterday by a Florida prosecutor.

Skakel is the father of two suspects in the Greenwich teenager's murder. In addition, Martin County Assistant State's Attorney Robert Belanger argues in his brief, it is not the Florida court's job to decide whether a witness is competent. It is a matter that should be determined if and when a defendant is brought to trial, his brief said.

Countering the prosecutor's claims, an attorney for Skakel argued in his own brief that it is within the Florida court's purview to decide competency, which the attorney claimed had been clearly established during the Oct. 16 hearing in Florida.

Skakel, 74, is the brother of Ethel Kennedy and former chairman of Great Lakes Carbon, the family business. He sold his Belle Haven home in 1993 and moved to Hobe Sound, Fla.

The Skakel family lived across from Moxley when she was slain the evening of Oct. 30, 1975. Thomas and Michael Skakel, who were then 17 and 15 years old, respectively, had both been with the 15-year old victim the evening of the crime. Police said the weapon used to bludgeon and stab Moxley was a 6-iron from a set of golf clubs owned by the Skakel family.

In a subpoena issued to the elder Skakel in August, the suspects' father was called a "material and necessary witness" for the grand jury that has been investigating the Moxley murder since July.

An affidavit filed this month by Connecticut prosecutors in Martin County Circuit Court stated that "it has been established that Rushton Skakel Sr. Has been privy to, as well as the source, of information which would greatly assist in this investigation."

As an example, the affidavit states, Skakel had been present during a meeting at the Elan School for troubled adolescents in Maine, which Michael Skakel attended from 1978 to 1980, and it has been reported that during said meeting certain admissions to his involvement in the murder were made by Michael."

In addition, the affidavit states, during the 1980s the elder Skakel "had discussed his concerns about members of his familyís possible involvement with this murder" in conversations with family friend Mildred Ix, "who has reported that she has been in social contact with Rushton Skakel Sr. Within the last year or so, and that his mental and physical condition seemed fine."

Ix testified before the grand jury in August.

During the Oct. 16 competency hearing, Martin county Judge John Fennelly heard testimony that Skakel has serious psychological problems from two of Skakelís physicians. A psychiatrist and neurologist testified that Skakel suffers from a schizophrenia-type disorder, as well as brain damage that makes his recollection of events unreliable.

Belanger points out in his brief that Skakel was omitted as a witness on his own behalf. "Accordingly, it is the stateís position that the respondent failed to meet his burden of proof on the issue of competency," the prosecutor argues. "Quite simply, this court did not have an opportunity to see and hear how Mr. Skakel might respond to questioning."

Furthermore, the prosecutorís brief argues, Skakelís own psychiatrist submitted as evidence an evaluation that stated that Skakel "feigns sickness when advantageous and has instantaneous recoveries." Belanger also noted that during the competency proceeding, "Mr. Skakel exhibited appropriate courtroom behavior during the nearly four-hour long hearing."

Skakelís attorney, Richard Lubin of West Palm beach, states in his brief, "The irrefutable testimony of the lay and expert witnesses at the Oct. 16,1998, hearing clearly establish that the witness is incompetent. The witnessí incompetency prevents him form providing material testimony. Therefore, he should not be compelled to testify."

The deadline for the briefs was yesterday, but no time limit has been set for a decision by the judge.