Kennedy relative's conviction in 1975 murder is restored

Dec 30 (Reuters) - A divided Connecticut Supreme Court on Friday reinstated the 2002 murder conviction of Michael Skakel, a relative of the Kennedy family, in the 1975 murder of his neighbor Martha Moxley.

By a 4-3 vote, the court rejected a 2013 ruling by a lower court judge that Skakel's trial lawyer did not provide an adequate defense, and that Skakel should be retried.

Hubert Santos, a lawyer for Skakel who argued that the 2013 ruling was correct, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel
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Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel

Michael Skakel as his bid for parole is denied at McDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, on Wednesday, October 24, 2012. Parole officials denied Skakel's first bid for parole since he was convicted a decade ago of killing his neighbor in 1975. Skakel is serving 20 years to life for fatally beating Martha Moxley with a golf club in Greenwich when they were 15-year-old neighbors.

(Pool photo Jessica Hill/Hartford Courant/MCT via Getty Images)

Kennedy relative Michael Skakel walks out of a Stamford, Connecticut courthouse after his murder conviction in the death of Martha Moxley was vacated last month when a judge decided he did not receive adequate representation in his 2002 trial on November 21, 2013 in Stamford, Connecticut. Skakel, who was set free on a bail of $1.2 million, was convicted of the 1975 murder of a neighbor and will now face a new trial.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

39 year old Michael Skakel (R) and his Lawyer Michael "Micky" Sherman (L) leave Stamford Ct. Juvenile Court March 14, where Skakel was arraigned for the October 30 1975 murder of 15 year old Martha Moxley in the Bell Haven section of Greenwich Ct. Skakel, who is the nephew of Robert and Ethel Kennedy was 15 at the time of the murder.

(Reuters Photographer / Reuters)

Kennedy relative Michael Skakel walks out of a Stamford, Connecticut courthouse after his murder conviction in the death of Martha Moxley was vacated last month when a judge decided he did not receive adequate representation in his 2002 trial on November 21, 2013 in Stamford, Connecticut. Skakel, who was set free on a bail of $1.2 million, was convicted of the 1975 murder of a neighbor and will now face a new trial. \

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Kennedy family relative Michael Skakel walks outside the Superior Courthouse in Norwalk, Connecticut in this file photo from June 4, 2002 as the jury deliberated for its first day in the murder trial of Martha Moxley, which occurred in 1975. The Supreme Court declined on November 13, 2006, to hear an appeal by Skakel seeking to overturn his conviction for the 1975 murder of Moxley.

(REUTERS/Douglas Healey/Pool)

Michael Skakel reacts to being granted bail during his hearing at Stamford Superior Court November 21, 2013 in Stamford, Connecticut. Skakel will be released on bail after receiving a new trial for the 1975 murder of his Greenwich, Connecticut, neighbor, Martha Moxley, of which he was convicted in 2002.

(Photo by Bob Luckey-Pool/Getty Images)

Kennedy relative Michael Skakel gets into a car after walking out of a Stamford, Connecticut courthouse after his murder conviction in the death of Martha Moxley was vacated last month when a judge decided he did not receive adequate representation in his 2002 trial on November 21, 2013 in Stamford, Connecticut. Skakel, who was set free on a bail of $1.2 million, was convicted of the 1975 murder of a neighbor and will now face a new trial.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Michael Skakel as his bid for parole is denied at McDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, on Wednesday, October 24, 2012. Parole officials denied Skakel's first bid for parole since he was convicted a decade ago of killing his neighbor in 1975. Skakel is serving 20 years to life for fatally beating Martha Moxley with a golf club in Greenwich when they were 15-year-old neighbors.

(Pool photo Jessica Hill/Hartford Courant/MCT via Getty Images)

Michael Skakel arrives at Superior Court June 7, 2002 in Norwalk, Connecticut. The jury, meeting for the fourth day, returned a guilty verdict, convicting Skakel of the 1975 murder of neighbor Martha Moxley. Skakel is the nephew of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Michael Skakel (C) leaves Superior Court after the first day of his sentencing hearing August 28, 2002 in Norwalk, Connecticut. Skakel was convicted of the 1975 slaying of childhood friend Martha Moxley in June.

(Photo by Beth Keiser-Pool/Getty Images)

Michael Skakel attends his bail hearing at Stamford Superior Court November 21, 2013 in Stamford, Connecticut. Skakel will be released on bail after receiving a new trial for the 1975 murder of his Greenwich, Connecticut, neighbor, Martha Moxley, of which he was convicted in 2002.

(Photo by Bob Luckey-Pool/Getty Images)

Michael Skakel (L), the nephew of the late Robert F Kennedy and his widow Ethel, arrives at the Stamford, Connecticut, Courthouse 21 February 2001 for his arraignment on murder charges in the 1975 beating death of his neighbor Martha Moxley. Skakel, now 40, and Moxley were both 15 at the time of her murder.  

(TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Michael Skakel, a nephew of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, enters Greenwich Police Department 19 January, 2000 In Greenwich, Connecticut. Skakel surrendered to authorities to face charges that he beat a childhood friend to death 24 years ago.

(STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Michael Skakel, 40, leaves Stamford, Conn., court after he was arraigned for murder in the 1975 death of his teenage neighbor Martha Moxley. Skakel's trial has been shifted form juvenile to adult court.

(Photo by David Handschuh/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Michael Skakel is escorted out of Norwalk Superior Court after being sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for the 1975 murder of his neighbor Martha Moxley August 29, 2002 in Norwalk, Connecticut. Skakel, a Kennedy family nephew, was found guilty June 7, 2002 of the golf club beating death of 15-year-old Martha Moxley. Skakel was also a teenager at the time of the murder.

(Photo by Pool/Getty Images)

Michael Skakel, 40, (center) leaves Stamford, Conn., court with his defense team after he was arraigned for murder in the 1975 death of his teenage neighbor Martha Moxley. Skakel's trial has been shifted form juvenile to adult court.

(Photo by David Handschuh/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Kennedy family nephew Michael Skakel is escorted by court officers out of Norwalk Superior Court in Norwalk, Connecticut after being sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, in this file photo from August 29, 2002, for the 1975 murder of his teenage neighbour Martha Moxley. The Supreme Court declined on November 13, 2006, to hear an appeal by Skakel seeking to overturn his conviction for the 1975 murder of Moxley.

(REUTERS/Jim Bourg)

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Moxley was found beaten to death with a golf club at her family's Greenwich estate on Oct. 31, 1975, when she and Skakel were 15 years old.

Skakel, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, widow of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for the murder, and had already served 11 years when he was set free following the 2013 ruling.

Police investigating the crime originally looked at Michael Skakel and his brother Thomas as suspects in the murder, along with a tutor. Both brothers were romantically interested in Moxley, and Michael Skakel was charged after three witnesses testified that he had confessed to the murder.

Santos had argued that Skakel's trial lawyer was more focused on winning fame than his client's freedom, and should have presented evidence that Thomas Skakel, who was not charged, might have committed the murder. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and David Ingram in New York; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and David Gregorio)

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