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Kennedy relative faces trial for murder

Michael Skakel
Michael Skakel  

STAMFORD, Connecticut (CNN) -- Connecticut judge ruled Friday that there is probable cause to go forward with a trial of Michael Skakel, who is charged with murder in the 1975 killing of Martha Moxley.

Skakel, now 40, is accused of beating Moxley to death with a golf club when they were both 15. Skakel and Moxley were neighbors in the wealthy Greenwich, Connecticut, community.

Much of the three-day hearing focused on prosecution witness Gregory Coleman, a former classmate of Skakel's, who said he heard Skakel confess to killing Moxley.

He said he once heard Skakel say he "drove her skull in with a golf club" and that he could get away with murder "because I'm a Kennedy." Skakel is the nephew of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy.

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Decision to try Michael Skakel as an adult - January 31, 2001(FindLaw)(PDF format)
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Coleman has admitted that drug use and time have clouded his memory in the 20-plus years since he claims to have heard the confession.

He also admitted for the first time Wednesday that he was under the influence of heroin when he testified before the grand jury. That testimony helped police obtain an arrest warrant for Skakel.

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

Skakel attorney Mickey Sherman sought to undermine Coleman's credibility Thursday by asking about his drug use. During the intense cross-examination, Coleman acknowledged he had used heroin as recently as Monday but said it was because he lacked prescription-ordered methadone.

Outside the courthouse, Sherman said Coleman's reliability as a witness could not be trusted.

"You can't rely on someone who admits that they have not just a faulty memory, (but) it's like horrific. And that he was high when he testified," Sherman said. "It's not the things we want use when we're going to indict or certainly convict anybody of murder."

Coleman was a classmate of Skakel's at the Elan School in Maine, a substance abuse center, in 1978. He said he believed Skakel was at the school to get away from Greenwich after the murder.

"I was under the impression he was there (at the school), if you want to say, to elude justice," Coleman said.

But minutes later, he acknowledged, "I did not know what he was in for."

Coleman acknowledged he didn't come forward with the alleged confession by Skakel until after a 1998 television report with Moxley's mother, Dorothy -- 20 years after he and Skakel were classmates. Asked why he didn't come forward sooner, Coleman said, "I thought whatever I had to say didn't make a damn bit of difference."

Another former classmate at Elan, John Higgins, testified Thursday that Skakel told him "I don't know if I did it (killed Martha), I may have done it, I could have done it, I did it."

When cross-examined by Sherman, Higgins said he didn't tell investigators about those statements earlier because he didn't want to get involved.

A close boyhood friend of Skakel's, Andrew Pugh, also took the witness stand. He said Skakel told him he didn't kill Martha, but that he did climb into the tree that night under which her body was found, and masturbated.

Skakel has said he was with Moxley and others on the night she died but that he blacked out before she was killed.

He surrendered to Greenwich police January 19, 2000, five days after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Skakel originally was charged as a juvenile, because of his age at the time of the killing, but a judge later ruled he should stand trial as an adult.



RELATED STORIES:
Witness said he heard Skakel confess to murder
April 19, 2001
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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