Court rejects request to move Skakel trial
STAMFORD, Connecticut (CNN) -- A Connecticut Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel will be tried in Stamford for the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley, a decision that could favor the defense in determining the jury pool.
Judge John Kavenewsky said the state had not met its burden to change venue, adding that "no one has suggested that a fair and impartial trial cannot be tried here."
The decision comes as a blow to prosecutors, who sought to move the trial to Bridgeport, a racially and economically mixed city about 25 miles north of well-to-do Stamford, which neighbors Skakel's home town.
Skakel's attorney, Mickey Sherman, had wanted the case tried in Stamford, next door to Greenwich, where Skakel grew up in an exclusive gated community.
"We have always said we could get a fair trial where ever this trial is held," said Sherman, "but this is one little perk they are not throwing to the state."
Connecticut State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict was said the decision was not a surprise.
"We'll try the case anywhere. We're eager to get started. It's not unexpected," he said.
Asked if a jury chosen in Stamford might be more sympathetic to Skakel, Benedict said, "I don't know who is suggesting that. People are no different in Stamford, Danbury, or Bridgeport. If anyone is suggesting that, it is no body from our side."
Bridgeport is where the case would have been tried at the time of the murder. The State's Attorney cited convenience in requesting a change of venue to Bridgeport, where his offices are based.
Neither side raised the issue of the jury pool, but experts have said that's what the debate was really about.
John Moxley, the victim's brother, said he did not think the ruling was that important. "I don' t think that a change of venue was any magical genie that was going to do something. I think it was a matter of convenience for the state attorney," he said.
Skakel and Moxley, his neighbor, were both 15 at the time she was bludgeoned to death outside her home with a golf club after a night out with friends. He surrendered to Greenwich police on January 19, 2000, five days after a warrant was issued for his arrest.
A probable cause hearing in the Skakel case is scheduled for April 18. Both prosecutors and defense expect that session to be similar to a reasonable cause hearing held last June.
The case was moved from juvenile to adult court on January 31. Skakel's lawyer is appealing that transfer decision, and has asked that the case be dismissed citing a statute of limitations on the crime.
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