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Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel will not be retried in 1975 killing

Michael Skakel left a courthouse in Stamford, Conn., Friday.
Michael Skakel left a courthouse in Stamford, Conn., Friday.Seth Wenig/Associated Press

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — A prosecutor said Friday that Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel will not face a second trial in the killing of Martha Moxley, an announcement that came 45 years to the day after the teenager was found bludgeoned to death in her wealthy Connecticut neighborhood.

Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo Jr. said at a hearing at Stamford Superior Court that the case could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, was convicted of murder in 2002 and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. Several appeals followed. After serving 11 years behind bars, Skakel was freed in 2013 on $1.2 million bail after a judge overturned his conviction, saying his trial lawyer failed to adequately represent him.

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The state Supreme Court upheld that ruling in 2018, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the state’s appeal last year.

Moxley’s brother, John, said outside the courthouse that he still believes Skakel killed his sister but he and their mother, Dorthy, are at peace with the decision not to seek a second trial.

“His life will never be the same. Mine will never be the same. I wouldn’t want to walk a mile in his shoes,” Moxley said.

Skakel did not comment during the hearing or outside court. His attorney, Stephan Seeger, said Skakel is innocent.

"He’s been innocent from day one. This crime should have never been something that ended up in a trial in the first place,” Seeger said.

The case drew wide attention because of the Kennedy name, Skakel’s rich family, numerous theories about who killed Moxley and the brutal way in which she died. Several other people, including Skakel’s brother Tommy Skakel who denied any role in the killing, have been mentioned as possible killers. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has been one of Skakel’s most prominent defenders.

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A retrial would have presented several difficulties for prosecutors. There was a lack of forensic and eyewitness evidence against Skakel. A new alibi witness emerged. A key witness who said Skakel confessed is dead. And the Moxley family is leery of going through another trial.

On the night of the killing, Martha Moxley and other teens in the Belle Haven neighborhood were out doing pre-Halloween pranks and had visited the Skakel home, police said.

Her body was found the next day on her family’s estate, across the street from the Skakel home. She had been beaten with a 6-iron owned by the Skakel family and stabbed in the throat with a piece of the golf club’s shattered shaft, police said.

At Skakel’s trial, prosecutors suggested Skakel was angry with Martha because she had spurned his advances while having a sexual liaison with his brother Tommy.

Michael Skakel said he was miles away from the crime scene watching a “Monty Python” television show with others at the likely time Moxley was killed. But prosecutors maintain he could have killed her after returning home that night.

Police interviewed numerous witnesses, but the case went cold.

Interest was revived in 1993, when author Dominick Dunne published a novel, “A Season in Purgatory,” based on the murder.

Then, in 1998, former Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman, who gained notoriety in the O.J. Simpson murder case, published his own book, “Murder in Greenwich,” which asserted Michael Skakel killed Moxley in a jealous rage after seeing Thomas Skakel kiss her.

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A one-judge grand jury was announced that same year to investigate the killing, resulting in Skakel’s arrest in 2000 and conviction in 2002.

Here is a timeline of key developments in the case:

— Oct. 30, 1975: Greenwich teenager Martha Moxley is beaten to death with a golf club, later traced to a set owned by Michael Skakel’s late mother. Moxley’s battered body is found the next day under a tree on her family’s estate. The case is unsolved for 25 years and is the subject of several books.

— June 17, 1998: Prosecutors announce that a one-judge grand jury has been appointed to investigate the murder.

— Jan. 18, 2000: Arrest warrant issued.

— Jan. 19, 2000: Skakel surrenders to police. He is charged as a juvenile because he was 15 at the time of the murder.

— March 14, 2000: Skakel is arraigned. He approaches the victim’s mother in court and tells her: “You’ve got the wrong guy.”

— April 19, 2001: Gregory Coleman, who attended a substance abuse treatment center with Skakel in the 1970s, admits being high on heroin when he testified before the grand jury but stands by his testimony that Skakel said he would get away with murder because “I’m a Kennedy.”

— June 7, 2002: Skakel is convicted by a panel of 12 jurors in Norwalk Superior Court. Two months later, he is sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.

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— Aug. 26, 2004: Skakel seeks a new trial based on a claim by Gitano “Tony” Bryant that implicates two men in the murder.

— April 12, 2010: Connecticut Supreme Court rejects Skakel’s bid for a new trial, ruling a claim implicating two other men was not credible.

— Sept. 27, 2010: Skakel files a new appeal of his murder conviction, this time arguing his high-profile trial attorney, Michael Sherman, was incompetent.

— Oct. 24, 2012: A state parole board denies his bid for freedom, telling him he could be considered for release again in five years.

— April 25, 2013: Skakel, who did not testify at his trial, takes the stand in support of his appeal to argue Sherman did a poor job. He said Sherman took photos of the judge and jury with a pen camera and had him sign an autograph. “I was flabbergasted at the nonchalant attitude,” Skakel said.

— Oct. 23, 2013: A Connecticut judge grants a new trial for Skakel, ruling his attorney failed to adequately represent him when he was convicted in 2002.

— Nov. 21, 2013: Skakel is granted bail as prosecutors appeal the ruling for a new trial. Skakel posts $1.2 million bail and is freed pending appeal.

— Dec. 30, 2016: A divided Connecticut Supreme Court reinstates Skakel’s conviction. In a 4-3 decision, it rejects a lower court ruling that his trial lawyer didn’t adequately represent him. Skakel, then 56, faces a possible return to prison.

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— Jan. 9, 2017: Lawyers for Skakel ask the Connecticut Supreme Court to reconsider its decision to reinstate his murder conviction — a request that adds another twist to the case because the justice who wrote the 4-3 majority ruling has left the court.

— Feb. 22, 2018: Connecticut Supreme Court rejects a request by prosecutors to revoke Skakel’s bail and send him back to prison.

— May 4, 2018: Connecticut Supreme Court vacates Skakel’s murder conviction 4-3 and orders a new trial, saying defense attorney Michael Sherman failed to present evidence of an alibi.

— Jan. 7, 2019: The U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear the case, leaving in place the decision that vacated the murder conviction.

— Oct. 30, 2020: Prosecutors announce they will not seek a second trial for Skakel on the murder charge.