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Kennedy cousin can be tried for murder as adult, high court says

Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel surrenders to authorities in January 2000.  

HARTFORD, Connecticut (CNN) -- Connecticut's highest court Monday rejected an appeal by Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel, who wanted to be tried in juvenile court for the murder of teen-age neighbor 26 years ago.

The unanimous decision by the Connecticut State Supreme Court paves the way for a trial in the case in Stamford Superior Court sometime early next year, prosecutors said.

Monday's decision upholds a juvenile court judge's decision transferring the case from juvenile to adult court.

"The dispositive issue in this appeal is whether an order transferring jurisdiction from the juvenile matters division of the trial court to the regular criminal docket of the Superior Court is an appealable final judgment," the state Supreme Court wrote in its ruling. "We conclude that it is not. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal."


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Separately, the defense has filed a request in Stamford Superior Court to dismiss the case against Skakel on the basis of statute of limitations.

Skakel, 41, was arrested in January 2000 for the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley, when they were both 15 years old and neighbors. Moxley was found bludgeoned to death with a golf club outside her home in an affluent Greenwich community.

Skakel was originally charged as a juvenile. But on January 31, Judge Maureen Dennis ruled the case should be transferred to adult court because she said there were no juvenile facilities available in Connecticut to accommodate a middle-aged defendant.

Skakel's attorney downplayed Monday's decision denying his appeal. "This is not a devastating blow," attorney Mickey Sherman said. "We always knew there would be a trial."

The high court said Judge Dennis's ruling was not appealable, since the transfer was not a final judgment in the case. That left a small window open for the defense to re-appeal, should Skakel be convicted.

Prosecutor Jonathan Benedict said he was not surprised by the Supreme Court's decision. "We expected the ruling to fall this way we're ready to go," he said.

"It's exciting. It's very positive," said Moxley's brother, John Moxley. "It's exactly what we'd hoped for."

In juvenile court, Skakel would have faced a maximum sentence of four years in a rehabilitative facility, as opposed to a minimum sentence 10 years to life or maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison if convicted as an adult.

In a separate judicial procedure, Stamford Presiding Criminal Court Judge John Kavenewsky is expected to rule at a later time on a separate defense motion to dismiss the case, citing a statute of limitations on non-capital murder that was in effect at the time of the killing.

The law, which was repealed by the Connecticut Legislature in 1976, placed a statute of limitations on all charges not punishable by death. Connecticut did not have the death penalty at the time of the murder.

In an August hearing, Benedict argued against dismissal, saying "murder is murder."

-- From CNN Producer Ronni Berke



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