Prosecutors seek dismissal of latest Skakel appeal
By The Associated Press
NEW HAVEN, CT (AP) -
Prosecutors want a judge to dismiss Michael Skakel's latest challenge of his 2002 murder conviction, saying the Kennedy cousin's claim that his trial attorney did a poor job should have been raised in an earlier appeal and that many of the issues he cites were previously rejected.
A hearing was planned Thursday in Rockville Superior Court. Skakel, 52, is not expected to attend and an immediate ruling is not expected.
Skakel's attorneys say the appeal should not be dismissed and that Skakel has a right to show he was wrongly convicted.
Skakel is serving 20 years to life in prison for the fatal beating of Martha Moxley in wealthy Greenwich in 1975, when they were 15-year-old neighbors. He recently lost a bid for parole after a hearing in which he reiterated his innocence.
Attorneys for Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel Kennedy, argue in the appeal filed in 2010 that his trial attorney, Michael Sherman, failed to challenge the state's star witness by finding witnesses who later rejected his claim that Skakel confessed to the crime. Skakel, who is seeking a new trial, says Sherman failed to obtain evidence from prosecutors and others pointing to other suspects and failed to object to improper closing arguments.
Sherman has said he did all he could to prevent Skakel's conviction.
Prosecutors say the claim against Sherman should have been raised in an earlier appeal and contend Skakel is in procedural default.
"The suffering of crime victims and their families is needlessly extended by leaving the convictions of those who have so grievously wronged them forever open to challenge," prosecutor Susann Gill wrote. "Victims and their loved ones rightfully expect the criminal justice system to bring the litigation to a place of repose in a reasonable time and with the least number of post-conviction challenges as possible."
Gill also argues that the issues cited, such as the claim about the star witness and improper closing arguments, were denied in an earlier appeal.
Skakel "should not be permitted to place these issues once again in dispute in the hopes that a different judge will come to a different conclusion," Gill wrote, adding that to do so "makes a mockery of the finality to which the state, the taxpayers and the victims are entitled."
The victim's 80-year-old mother, Dorthy Moxley, said the appeals are stressful. She did not plan to attend the hearing.
"It just amazes me they have all this energy to keep pushing for these things when they just hit a stone wall every time," she said. "I just think it's a big waste of time and money for the state of Connecticut to have to put up with all these appeals. And it's a waste of time and effort and money on my part."
Skakel's attorneys, Hope Seeley and Hubert Santos, say the issues in the latest appeal are related to the earlier challenge but are not identical. They also say some of the rulings denying the earlier appeals lend support to the claims against Sherman, citing a Supreme Court ruling that stated Sherman failed to object to the prosecutor's closing argument.
Skakel's attorneys say they were not required to raise the claim against Sherman in the earlier appeal and to do so would have forced them to make contradictory arguments. They say the state's interest in finality does not trump Skakel's interest in showing he was wrongfully convicted.
"Michael Skakel is an innocent man serving an unjust sentence for a crime he did not commit. Therefore, Mr. Skakel's exercise of his constitutional rights is not a waste of time or money," Santos said.
Skakel already has lost two appeals before the Connecticut Supreme Court.
If the latest appeal is not thrown out, a trial is scheduled to start in April.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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