Skakel Trial Heads to Jury as Attorneys Wrap Up Closing Arguments

Prosecutors in closing arguments Monday used excerpts from a taped interview Michael Skakel gave to an author to try to paint a picture of him beating Martha Moxley to death in 1975.

The defense said Skakel was utterly innocent and accused prosecutors of playing "musical chairs" with different suspects over the past quarter-century.

Both sides finished their closing arguments Monday in the murder case against Skakel. Deliberations were to begin Tuesday.

Skakel, 41, is accused of beating Moxley to death with a golf club in October 1975, when both were 15-year-old neighbors in a wealthy gated community in Greenwich. The golf club was matched to a set owned by Skakel's mother. Skakel is a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert F. Kennedy.

On the tape of the 1997 interview, Skakel says he was panicked the morning after the slaying when Moxley's mother came to the Skakel house looking for her daughter. The prosecutor highlighted a portion of the tape where Skakel says he was worried "of what I went to bed with."

"Is that the Freudian slip of all ages?" prosecutor Jonathan Benedict asked the jury as the photo projected in the courtroom changed from a smiling Moxley to one of her battered body.

Benedict also said Skakel confessed or made incriminating statements in the more than 25 years that followed.

The prosecutor said that while at the Elan School, a residential treatment center, Skakel once had to wear a sign that referred to him as a spoiled brat.

"The spoiled brat boasted, 'I can get away with anything,'" Benedict said.

The defense argued that Skakel didn't know until the morning after the slaying that Moxley was missing and became worried because he had been out late that night and feared he would be connected with her disappearance.

Defense attorney Michael Sherman said Skakel "didn't do it, he doesn't know who did it, he wasn't there when the crime was committed and he didn't confess."

Sherman said Skakel had problems as a teen-ager, "but they never rose to the level ... that he became a demonic killer on Halloween."

Benedict told jurors that the only person whose memory of that night appears clear is Michael Skakel. Members of Skakel's family are able to recall details of his alibi — that he was visiting a cousin at the time of the killing — but recall little else, Benedict said.

"What they truly remember they simply don't want you to know," Benedict said.

He noted that prosecution witnesses — including several former students at the Elan School said Skakel talked about the case.

One witness, Gregory Coleman, testified that Skakel told him: "I'm going to get away with murder, because I'm a Kennedy."

Coleman died last year after using heroin, but his pretrial testimony was read into the record by prosecutors.

Sherman attacked the prosecution witnesses, calling them unreliable and suggesting some just wanted to be involved in the drama of the case.

He said prosecutors have focused on several suspects over the years, including Skakel's older brother, Thomas, and on the family's live-in tutor, Kenneth Littleton.

"The state has basically been playing investigative musical chairs for 27 years," Sherman said. "I don't know who committed this crime and I don't think they do."

During the trial the defense repeatedly reminded jurors that Littleton and Thomas Skakel were early suspects. They argued that Littleton made incriminating statements in conversations with his ex-wife, Mary Baker.

"Were Ken Littleton's confessions any less compelling, any less persuasive?" Sherman asked.

Benedict described Moxley as a "pretty, athletic, flirtatious 15-year-old kid," who was "drawn into the vortex of the competing hormones" of Michael and Thomas Skakel.

Witnesses testified that Michael and Thomas had a contentious relationship. A former Elan student said Skakel told classmates his brother "stole his girlfriend."

The defense said there was no physical or forensic evidence linking Skakel to the crime.

"Whoever did this should rot in hell," Sherman told jurors. "But there was more [to the killing] than somebody who had a crush on somebody."

For the first time, a Kennedy relative was present at the trial. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. listened to the closing arguments and left at the lunch break without speaking to reporters.