The Connecticut Supreme court vacated the murder conviction of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel on Friday, ordering a new trial for the defendant accused of killing Martha Moxley in 1975. But experts say the case might not be brought up again.
In a 4-3 decision, the court determined that Skakel's defense attorney, Michael Sherman, failed to present evidence of his client's possible alibi in an earlier conviction.
Originally convicted in 2002, Skakel has been free since 2014 while the court has considered his latest appeal, and is expected to remain free permanently — unless prosecutors decide to retry him in the case from 43 years ago. Legal experts say that's unlikely, given that the evidence is several decades old.
Martha Moxley's mother, Dorothy, believes Skakel is guilty and has spend half of her nearly 86 years on earth waiting for justice in her child's murder. She said, "I really thought he would go back to jail because it seemed so simple, so obvious to me. I have no doubts at all that Michael Skakel is the one who murdered my daughter."
Justice Carmen Espinosa wrote a scathing decent in Friday's court decision, a statement which she said was intended to "highlight the continued and disturbing practice...of certain justices of this court ignoring the law and fabricating facts in order to reach their desired result."
She added, "There are thousands of convicted criminals languishing in Connecticut's prisons, approximately two-thirds of whom are either African-American or Hispanic, who would undoubtedly be thrilled to receive such special treatment...Unfortunately for them, the vast majority do not share the petitioner's financial resources, social standing, ethnicity or connections to a political dynasty."
Espinosa is a former prosecutor.
The murder of Martha Moxley occurred in late October in 1975. Her body was found stabbed and bludgeoned — the suspected murder weapon, a broken golf club, was lying nearby. The golf club was traced by police to belong to the collection of the nearby Skakel family; 17-year-old Thomas Skakel of the household, was the nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel Skakel Kennedy.
No physical evidence links Michael Skakel to the crime, and in 2016, a defense attorney for Skakel said the perpetrator was most likely Thomas Skakel, the brother of the accused. Michael Skakel's former conviction was based on erratic behavior by the defendant, along with incriminating statements revealed from testimony.
Dorothy Moxley's son, John, expressed his disappointment with Friday's ruling, saying, "I don't know what the next steps are. My mom is getting older. I just don't think she has the strength to go through with this."
In reference to Skakel, he added, "He'll be in jail the rest of his life. He may not be physically in jail. He may be walking the streets, but he'll be in hell at some point."