Psychiatrist testifies to block testimony in Moxley case

By Denise Lavoie, Associated Press

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - A six-month term on a grand jury investigating the 1975 murder of a Greenwich teen-ager will expire early next month, but prosecutors expect there will be an extension.

Prosecutor Jonathan Benedict said it appears likely that the grand juror, Judge George Thim, will apply for a six-month extension. His term expires Dec. 10, but the investigation has been delayed as various witnesses fight subpoenas.

Such a battle was being waged in a court hearing Tuesday as lawyers for Robert Kennedy's nephew, a suspect in the murder of Martha Moxley, called a psychiatrist to testify about whether statements Michael Skakel made 20 years ago at a school for troubled teens are protected by confidentiality rules.

Prosecutors believe Skakel confessed to the killing when he was a patient from 1978 to 1980 at the Elan school, a residential drug treatment center in school in Poland Spring, Maine.

But Skakel's lawyers are fighting to bar testimony before an investigatory grand jury from anyone associated with the school, including former students, counselors and the school's owner.

On Tuesday, Daniel Greenfield, a psychiatrist specializing in addiction medicine, said patients in residential treatment facilities have an expectation of confidentiality, not only from their psychiatrists, but from staff members and other patients.

Greenfield said confidentiality applies to group therapy sessions as well as more individualized counseling sessions.

In response to a question from Judge Edward F. Stodolink, Greenfield said there are no communications between patients and lay staff that are not protected by confidentiality in licensed, 24-hour treatment facilities, as the Elan school.

``When a person comes into a program like that ... that person, that adolescent, should come with the expectation that it all stays there,'' within the treatment program, Greenfield said.

Judge Stodolink must decide whether prosecutors can force the school's owner, Joseph Ricci, to testify before a one-judge grand jury investigating the 1975 killing of 15-year-old Martha Moxley. He must also decide whether former students and counselors at the school can testify.

Ricci has refused to testify, saying he never heard about or overheard any confession made by Skakel at Elan. He has also claimed that anything Skakel said at the school is protected by confidentiality laws.

Several former students have already testified before the grand jury, so if Stodolink decides to bar any Elan testimony, he would have to instruct the grand jury to disregard that testimony.

Skakel's lawyers also sought to show that teen-agers sometimes exaggerate or say unreliable things in therapy.

``These are kids, these are adolescents. They say all kinds of jerky things,'' said Greenfield, the former medical director of an adolescent alcohol and drug treatment program in New Jersey.

Michael Skakel was 15 when Moxley was beaten to death with a golf club on Oct. 30, 1975. He and his brother Thomas, then 17, are the only suspects in the murder. Both have denied any involvement in Moxley's death.

Soon after the murder, the 6-iron used to kill Moxley was matched to a set of clubs owned by the Skakel family.

Thomas and Michael's father, Rushton Skakel, is the brother of Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's widow.

The hearing on Elan testimony was continued to Dec. 1, when Skakel's lawyers may call a former staffer at the Department of Mental Health and Corrections in Maine to show that the school had a valid license as a mental health facility.

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