Courtesy Lexis.Com

Today Show, NBC News
February 2, 2001


MATT Lauer, co-host:

On CLOSE-UP this morning, the Moxley murder. On Wednesday, a Connecticut judge ruled that Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel will be tried as an adult for the murder of his neighbor, 15-year-old Martha Moxley, back in 1975. NBC's Dan Abrams has a report.

DAN ABRAMS reporting:

In a long-awaited decision, the Connecticut judge rules that 40-year-old Michael Skakel will be tried for murder as an adult for a crime he's accused of committing when he was just 15.

Offscreen Voice #1: Michael, did you kill her? Did you do it?

ABRAMS In October of 1975, Skakel's 15-year-old neighbor Martha Moxley was found behind her Greenwich, Connecticut, home bludgeoned to death with a golf club. Skakel wasn't indicted until January of last year, the case initially sent to juvenile court. In a ruling transferring the case, Judge Maureen Dennis wrote, "the facilities of the adult criminal division afford and provide a more effective setting for the disposition of this case."

Mr. JOHN MOXLEY (Martha Moxley's Brother): We were worried that if it had stayed in juvenile court that there is really no penalty that the--the system could impose on him, so there was some talk that they wouldn't prosecute at all. Now we know we're going to get a shot.

ABRAMS It was a crucial victory for Connecticut prosecutors who had said they might drop the charges if the case remained in juvenile court. As an adult, Skakel now faces up to 60 years in prison. As a juvenile, he could have been sentenced to as little as probation. Skakel's attorney says he's disappointed, but not surprised.

Mr. MICKEY SHERMAN (Michael Skakel's Attorney): While I disagree with the judge's ruling, our focus is on the trial. Michael Skakel at some point will be tried by a jury of his peers, 12 people, then the world will see the evidence, they'll hear the testimony, and they will see that Michael Skakel is not only not guilty, he's innocent.

ABRAMS And the case will likely go to a jury later this year, 25 years after the murder of Martha Moxley. For TODAY, Dan Abrams, NBC News.

Lauer: Mickey Sherman is Michael Skakel's attorney.

Mr. SHERMAN, good morning to you.

Mr. SHERMAN: Good morning.

Lauer: I understand you must be a little disappointed in the court's decision. What's your reaction to it?

Mr. SHERMAN: Well, that's a good description, Matt. I'm just a little disappointed. This is not the end of the world. This is basically a decision we kind of expected, but by the same token now we're looking forward to a full trial, which is something I think Michael Skakel needs to show the world that he's, in fact, not guilty.

Lauer: But see if you can explain this for me, because it's my understanding in Connecticut there's a law where a defendant is tried according to the age during which he committed the crime. Why the loophole in this?

Mr. SHERMAN: Well, that's exactly what it was, Matt. It is a loophole. And, of course, the press is--is a difficult one. It--it's a complicated one. By by the same token, he was 15 when it occurred, if in--if, in fact, he committed this crime, which I certainly don't believe is the truth, then he should be tried as a 15-year-old. But they found a law that says if, in fact, there's no adequate facility to house him, if he is convicted, then they must transfer to the adult court. And I just don't buy that. I mean, they could find someplace to put a 40-year-old who allegedly committed a crime 25 years ago and has been free of any criminal conduct over the last 25 years.

Lauer: All right, so...

Mr. SHERMAN: We could be real creative.

Lauer: So, technically, how does it change the stakes for your client once the trial actually begins?

Mr. SHERMAN: The stakes should change dramatically. Had he been convicted as a juvenile, he could have done anywhere from no time to maybe two, at most, years in prison if convicted. As an adult, he's looking at a max--a minimum of 25 years to 60 years in prison, if convicted. But, he's not going to be convicted.

Lauer: So, as you keep that in mind, though, the sentencing differences, how does it affect the way you prepare for the trial?

Mr. SHERMAN: It frankly doesn't. It's actually, however, I think better to try this case in front of a jury. It's better for Michael Skakel. It's better for the victims in this case. And it's better for the community at large. They're all going to see the evidence where they wouldn't have seen it in the juvenile court proceeding. So whereas the stakes are higher, Matt, by the same token the process is going to be a bit more open, and I think the people will accept a verdict of not guilty a lot better.

Lauer: You mentioned evidence. You say you've seen the prosecution's case and it's weak, it just doesn't make it. What's the biggest weakness in it?

Mr. SHERMAN: Well, I--I don't want to comment directly on the evidence. It's probably not appropriate. But they did show us their cards when we had a preliminary hearing. I've heard the testimony of the people they say Michael Skakel confessed to, and I don't personally buy it. I don't think a jury's going to buy it.

Lauer: Well, then, real quickly, what's the biggest piece of evidence you have that proves his innocence?

Mr. SHERMAN: Michael Skakel didn't do it. It's not up to me to prove anything. We're going to go to court, we're going to listen to what they've got, and then we'll bring our case out then.

Lauer: Mickey Sherman.

Mr. SHERMAN, thanks very much.

Mr. SHERMAN: You've got it.

Copyright 2001. NBC News. All rights reserved.

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