Defense Rests in Skakel Murder Trial

The defense lawyer for Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel rested his case Tuesday after calling a medical expert who estimated Martha Moxley's time of death at 10 p.m. — a time that conforms with Skakel's alibi.

The jury also heard testimony from a detective who said Skakel didn't acknowledge in 1975 that he had gone to Moxley's property on the night of the murder. He has since admitted to going to the property late that night.

Skakel, 41, is charged with beating Moxley to death with a golf club on Oct. 30, 1975, when they were 15-year-old neighbors in Greenwich. Skakel is a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel Kennedy.

Dr. Joseph Jachimczyk of Houston said he estimated the time of death based on the degree of rigor mortis in Moxley's body, reports of barking dogs in the area, the girl's curfew, the autopsy report and the contents of her stomach at the time of death.

But on cross-examination, Jachimczyk acknowledged the difficulty in estimating time of death, and said his estimate could be off by an hour in either direction.

Skakel has said he was visiting a cousin's house in another part of Greenwich at 10 p.m. that night.

The state's own medical examiner said he could not pinpoint a time of death, saying it could have been any time between 9:30 p.m. Oct. 30 and 5 a.m. Oct. 31.

Skakel did not testify in his own defense, but has steadfastly denied any involvement in Moxley's slaying. Defense lawyer Michael Sherman said there was no need to call him as a witness, noting that prosecutors played a tape of Skakel describing his movements.

"He always wanted to take the stand. It was my call, not his," Sherman said.

Earlier, jurors heard from Skakel's 43-year-old brother John, who stood by a statement he gave to police in 1975 that Michael Skakel was among the family members who traveled to their cousin's house.

But under cross-examination he admitted he could no longer recall who made that trip.

"I'd love nothing more than to have a clearer memory," he said.

The defense called former Greenwich police Detective James Lunney to testify Tuesday about his investigation of Skakel's older brother, Thomas, an early suspect in the slaying.

But Lunney testified on cross-examination that Michael Skakel had never told him he left his home after returning from his cousin's house at about 11 p.m. the night of the slaying.

"He definitely said he did not go out," Lunney said.

Prosecutors last week played a tape of Skakel telling an author in 1997 that after he returned home from his cousin's house, he went to Moxley's property. Skakel said on the tape that he briefly roamed the neighborhood, then climbed a tree on the Moxley property.

He said he threw sticks and small rocks at Moxley's window and yelled her name. He said he then masturbated in the tree, climbed down and went home.

No Kennedy relatives have appeared at the trial, though they indicated previously that they planned to support Skakel.

Prosecutor Jonathan Benedict is expected to call several rebuttal witnesses on Wednesday, including Julie Skakel, Michael Skakel's sister.

A subpoena was also issued for Newsday reporter Leonard Levitt, who has long covered the Moxley case. It relates to details of the murder contained in one of his articles about a decade ago.

Stephanie Abrutyn, an attorney for Newsday, said the newspaper would move to quash the subpoena if prosecutors did not withdraw it.