Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel seeks release on bond

Michael Skakel’s conviction in the 1975 slaying of  Martha Moxley was set aside and a new trial ordered by a Connecticut judge. Skakel is pictured with his lawyer, Jessica Santos.
Michael Skakel’s conviction in the 1975 slaying of Martha Moxley was set aside and a new trial ordered by a Connecticut judge. Skakel is pictured with his lawyer, Jessica Santos.

HARTFORD — Lawyers for Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel filed a motion Thursday seeking his release from prison on bond while he awaits a new trial in the 1975 slaying of neighbor Martha Moxley.

Skakel’s conviction was set aside Wednesday by Judge Thomas Bishop, who ruled that Skakel’s trial lawyer, Michael Sherman, failed to adequately represent Skakel when he was found guilty in 2002 in the golf club bludgeoning of Moxley when they were both 15.

Skakel’s current lawyer, Hubert Santos, filed a motion Thursday afternoon in Rockville Superior Court seeking a $500,000 bond. If a judge approves it, Skakel could post bond and be released from prison.


‘‘We’re very, very thrilled,’’ Santos said. ‘‘I always felt that Michael was innocent.’’

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As of Thursday afternoon, no date for a bond hearing had been set.

Bridgeport State’s Attorney John Smriga said prosecutors will appeal both Bishop’s decision and the request for bond. He said they remain confident in the jury’s verdict.

‘‘The state’s case relied on Michael Skakel’s uncontested connection to the murder weapon, strong evidence of motive, substantial evidence of consciousness of guilt, nearly a dozen incriminating admissions, and three unequivocal confessions,’’ Smriga said in a statement.

During a state trial in April on the appeal, Skakel took the stand and blasted Sherman’s handling of the case, portraying him as an overly confident lawyer having fun and basking in the limelight while making fundamental mistakes from poor jury picks to failing to track down key witnesses.


Sherman has said he did all he could to prevent Skakel’s conviction and denied he was distracted by media attention in the high-profile case.

John Moxley, the victim’s brother, said that the ruling took him and his family by surprise and that they hope the state wins an appeal.

‘‘Having been in the courtroom during the trial, there were a lot of things that Mickey Sherman did very cleverly,’’ Moxley said.

‘‘But the evidence was against him. And when the evidence is against you, there’s almost nothing you can do.’’

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a cousin of Skakel’s who has long insisted that Skakel did not commit the crime, said on NBC’s ‘‘Today’’ show on Thursday that the judge’s ruling was correct.


‘‘His one crime was that he had a very, very poor representation,’’ he said. ‘‘If he gets another trial, he’s got good lawyers now, and there’s no way in the world that he will be convicted.’’

In his ruling, the judge wrote that defense in such a case requires attention to detail, an energetic investigation, and a coherent plan of defense.

‘‘Trial counsel’s failures in each of these areas of representation were significant and, ultimately, fatal to a constitutionally adequate defense,’’ Bishop wrote.

‘‘As a consequence of trial counsel’s failures as stated, the state procured a judgment of conviction that lacks reliability.’’

Among other issues, the judge wrote that the defense could have focused more on Skakel’s brother, Thomas, who was an early suspect in the case because he was the last person seen with Martha Moxley.

Skakel, who maintains his innocence, was denied parole last year and was told he would not be eligible again to be considered for release for five years.