Michael Skakel a free man, bail set at $1.2 million

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    Michael Skakel released on $1.2M bond

Michael Skakel released on $1.2M bond 00:48

Story highlights

  • Michael Skakel is freed after judge sets conditions for bail
  • Dorthy Moxley, mother of slain Martha Moxley, says she is "disappointed"
  • Nephew of Robert and Ethel Kennedy was convicted of murder in 2002
  • Skakel steadfastly denied he killed the 15-year-old in 1975

Michael Skakel, a Kennedy relative convicted of the 1975 murder of a 15-year-old neighbor, walked out of a Connecticut courthouse Thursday on bail.

A Connecticut judge set bail at $1.2 million for Skakel, whose murder conviction in the death of Martha Moxley was vacated last month after a judge decided he did not receive adequate representation in his 2002 trial.

After bail was posted, Skakel sauntered out of the courthouse, flanked by his attorneys, a slight grin on his face. He did not speak.

Hubert Santos, his attorney, told reporters that "two tragedies" occurred in Greenwich nearly four decades ago.

"The first was of course the murder of Martha Moxley," he said. "A great tragedy for the Moxley family and for everyone else associated with the matter. The second tragedy occurred in a courthouse ... in 2002 when Michael was convicted of the murder of Martha Moxley. A murder he did not commit. And hopefully we are at the first step of righting that wrong and making sure that an innocent man now goes free."

Stamford Superior Court Judge Gary White set several conditions for the bail, including barring Skakel from leaving Connecticut without court approval, ordering him to wear a GPS tracking device, to refrain from contacting the victim's family, and requiring that he report to a bail commissioner.

Skakel, the 53-year-old nephew of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, has spent more than a decade in prison for the murder of the 15-year-old girl.

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    Moments after bail was granted, about two dozen relatives of Skakel, seated together on one side of the courtroom, applauded the decision. Skakel turned to them, placed his right hand to his heart and smiled.

    In a statement, the Skakel family said the decision was a "first step in correcting a terrible wrong."

    "We look forward to Michael being vindicated and justice finally being served," said the statement. "We are thankful to God that after 11 and one half years he will be reunited with his sons. We are grateful for the love and prayers of Michael's many supporters who have sustained him through this ordeal."

    Outside court, the victim's ailing mother, Dorthy Moxley, said she was "disappointed."

    "It's been a little over 11 years now" since Skakel was convicted, she said. "The whole thing didn't have to be this way, but I think it's a lesson to parents. If your child does something wrong, face up to it. ... I'm disappointed, but this is life."

    She added, "I don't think he was a Jeffrey Dahmer or one of the mass murderers ... he was just a kid who had problems. We don't have anything to be afraid of now."

    Earlier, prosecutor John Smriga said a bail of $500,000 or even $1 million was inappropriate and on the "low side," given the brutal nature of the crime, the age of the victim and Skakel's admitted mental health issues.

    In court, Santos cited his client's "track record" of appearing in court. He said Skakel never got a fair trial because of the "circus atmosphere" that surrounded the case, and questioned the quality of state's evidence and testimony in securing a conviction.

    The defense filed court papers describing Skakel as a former world-class skier, noting his work with Alcoholics Anonymous, and even citing a meeting he once had with the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

    "He's one of the most recognizable faces in America," Santos said. "He's not going anywhere."

    Appellate Court Judge Thomas Bishop overturned Skakel's conviction last month, ruling that defense attorney Michael "Mickey" Sherman's representation of Skakel at his murder trial was "constitutionally deficient."

    Moxley's body was found in 1975 after a night of partying with Skakel, his older brother Tommy and other teenagers in an affluent gated community in Greenwich, Connecticut. Authorities said the 15-year-old was bludgeoned and stabbed to death; a broken golf club was found near her body.

    Skakel has always proclaimed his innocence.