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Witness testified on heroin in Kennedy kin case

Mickey Sherman
Attorney Mickey Sherman says he was "shocked" to hear that a witness against Skakel admitted he testified while on heroin.  

STAMFORD, Connecticut (CNN) -- A hearing to determine whether a murder case involving Kennedy relative Michael Skakel should go to trial took an unexpected turn Wednesday when a key prosecution witness admitted he was on heroin when he gave crucial and damaging testimony.

It was the testimony of that witness, Gregory Coleman, to a grand jury a couple of years ago that helped prosecutors secure the arrest warrant accusing Skakel of the murder of his young neighbor, Martha Moxley, in 1975.

"I was on heroin when I testified before the grand jury," Coleman admitted on the stand Wednesday, apparently to the surprise of everyone in the courtroom.

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Coleman said he had a "lapse of memory with the grand jury" and added, "I would say my recall at times would be questionable."

An astonished Mickey Sherman, Skakel's defense attorney, asked Coleman whether he was on drugs now, to which Coleman said, "No."

But blow by blow, Sherman then chipped away at Coleman's credibility, getting him to admit he had changed his testimony several times between his grand jury appearance and his testimony last June in a probable cause hearing in juvenile court.

Both the prosecution and the defense had expected Wednesday's session to be similar to last June's, where the judge ruled there was enough evidence to proceed to trial. The case was moved to adult court January 31, so the case had to be reheard in Stamford Superior Court.

Coleman was a classmate of Skakel's at the Elan School in Maine, a substance abuse center, in 1978. Among the versions of Coleman's testimony have been that Skakel, now 40, admitted to the murder a couple of times, many times, and freely confessed to many people at the school.

Coleman, who was in prison when he testified in June, also admitted Wednesday he was involved in "major crime" after his stay at Elan, even serving time at Attica.

Skakel shook his head repeatedly as Coleman testified.

"I'd be monumentally pissed off if that's what they're using against you," Sherman told CNN. "I don't believe for one moment the state's attorney had any knowledge. They were as shocked as we were when this came out."

State's attorney Jonathan Benedict said little when asked about Coleman's testimony.

"I don't think it's right at this point to comment at all on witnesses," Benedict said. "I think that's something I've got to reserve for the court."

Moxley's mother, Dorothy, wore a broad smile when she emerged from the courthouse after the hearing, saying she had "complete confidence" in the prosecution's case.

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. The unusual club matched a set owned by the Skakels.

Skakel has testified he had been with Moxley and others, but said he blacked out before she was killed. He surrendered to Greenwich police January 19, 2000, five days after the warrant was issued for his arrest.

If found guilty of the crime, Skakel could face life in prison.

Coleman repeated his testimony from last June that Skakel had admitted at Elan he "drove into" Moxley's skull with the golf club, "so hard that the golf club had broken it."

But when former Greenwich Police Chief Thomas Keegan took the stand, he admitted there was no physical evidence, including blood or fiber, linking anyone to the crime.

The hearing is expected to last two to three days before Judge John Kavanewsky rules whether there is sufficient evidence to go to trial.

Skakel is the nephew of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy.



RELATED STORIES:
Court rejects request to move Skakel trial
April 5, 2001
Documents implicate Skakel in Moxley killing
March 12, 2001
Attorneys spar over trial location in Skakel case
March 1, 2001
Kennedy nephew arraigned in adult court
February 21, 2001
Kennedy nephew to face trial as adult in 1975 killing
January 31, 2001
Prosecutor says Skakel case may depend on switch to adult court
October 20, 2000
Report clears way for ruling on trial of Kennedy cousin in 1975 murder
October 5, 2000
Kennedy cousin ordered to stand trial in 1975 slaying
August 17, 2000
Conflicting testimony over whether Skakel confessed to killing
June 21, 2000
Witness says Kennedy relative confessed to 1975 killing
June 20, 2000
Arraignment today for Kennedy kin in girl's murder
February 8, 2000
Attorney: Skakel to be arraigned next month
January 20, 2000
Attorney: No evidence to tie Skakel to 1975 killing of girl
January 20, 2000
Kennedy kin free on bond after surrendering in girl's 1975 killing
January 19, 2000

RELATED SITES:
The Martha Moxley Murder
Martha Moxley - The Unsolved Murder


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