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    Skakel blames lawyer in latest Conn. murder appeal

    VERNON, Conn. — Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel’s latest appeal trial began Tuesday with his former lawyer defending an accusation that he failed to competently defend Skakel when he was convicted of murder in 2002.

    Skakel, the 52-year-old nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel, is serving 20 years to life in prison for the 1975 bludgeoning of a Greenwich neighbor, Martha Moxley, when both of them were 15.

    Skakel says that during the 2002 trial, his lawyer, Michael Sherman, failed to challenge the state’s star witness and ­obtain evidence pointing to other suspects, did a poor job with jury selection and closing arguments, and did not hire enough investigators and consultants.

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    Sherman, the first witness to take the stand in the Rockville Superior Court appeal trial, said he had been confident ­before the 2002 criminal trial that he would win the case.

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    Prosecutors say many of the issues raised by Skakel were ­rejected in earlier appeals.

    Skakel lost a bid for parole last year, as well as two appeals before the state Supreme Court.

    His current lawyer, Hubert Santos, says Skakel’s conviction was based on two witnesses of dubious credibility who stated that he confessed to the crime. Santos contends the verdict would probably have been different if Sherman had conducted an appropriate independent investigation and challenged inappropriate state evidence.

    Prosecutor Susann Gill said Skakel’s conviction came after more than a dozen witnesses testified that he made incriminating statements, including three direct confessions.