Connecticut top court to hear arguments on Kennedy kin murder case

Michael Skakel Released on $1.2 Million Bond

Connecticut prosecutors asked the state's top court on Wednesday to return Kennedy family member Michael Skakel to jail to finish serving the 20-year prison sentence imposed after a court found him guilty in 2002 of a murder four decades ago.

Skakel is the nephew of Ethel Kennedy, widow of slain U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He has been free on a $1.2 million bond since 2013 after serving 11 years in prison in the 1975 slaying of Martha Moxley. Skakel and Moxley were neighbors in Greenwich, Connecticut, and were both 15 when she was beaten to death with a golf club.

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Skakel, now 55, was arrested in 2000, convicted in 2002 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He persuaded an appeals court in 2013 to overturn his conviction, arguing that the lawyer who represented him at the time did a poor job.

The state appealed the 2013 decision and the Connecticut Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments in the matter on Wednesday. Lawyers for the state argued that Skakel's attorneys had mounted an effective defense in the original trial.

"This was far from a slipshod defense. This was a well planned, well thought-out defense," Susann Gill, a supervisory assistant state's attorney, told the court.

During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence from three people who knew Skakel and said that he had admitted the killing, Gill said. Skakel's attorneys have questioned how reliable those three witnesses were, charging that at least one was a drug addict at the time.

"It has always mystified me that there was a myth that has come up that this was a weak case. It was not," Gill said.

Skakel's current attorney, Hubert Santos, argued that his client's original lead attorney squandered resources during the trial and was more focused on winning fame than his client's freedom. He contended Skakel's trial defense team should have presented evidence of other suspects in the case, including Skakel's brother, Thomas.

"This defendant did not get a fair shake," Santos said, adding the defense team was ineffective at challenging witness credibility.

Michael Skakel's attorneys have said he is innocent. Thomas Skakel was never charged.

The court is not expected to make an immediate ruling.

RELATED GALLERY: See photos of Robert F. Kennedy

Robert F. Kennedy (life, assassination)
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Connecticut top court to hear arguments on Kennedy kin murder case
16th March 1938: Joseph Patrick Kennedy (1888 - 1969), the American Ambassador and financier with his wife and five of their nine children at the Princes Gate home in London. Left to right: Kathleen, Edward (who became a Democratic senator), Joseph Kennedy, wife Rose Kennedy, Patricia (1924 - 2006), Jean and Robert, who became a Democratic senator before his assassination. (Photo by H. F. Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
circa 1964: Outside his residence at number 10 Downing Street, London, the British prime minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home, right, shakes hands with Robert Kennedy, US attorney general, and brother of the assassinated American president. Kennedy is in London for talks with the British government. (Photo by Kent Gavin/Keystone/Getty Images)
A family pay their respects at the John F Kennedy Memorial after the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy, Runnymede, Surrey, England, 6th June 1968. (Photo by Tilbury/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
6th June 1969: Mrs Stephen Smith and her daughters place flowers on the grave of her late brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy following a memorial service at the grave site on the first anniversary of the late Senatorfs death. (Photo by Gene Forte/Keystone/Getty Images)

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