Key Players in the Skakel Case

Profiles of key figures in the Michael Skakel murder trial: 

Martha Moxley 

Martha Moxley was the new kid in town, an attractive teen from California with long blond hair. She was quickly voted best personality at Western Junior High School in Greenwich. 

"She was the kind of person who walked into the room and the lights went on by themselves," said John Moxley, Martha's older brother. 

Martha was athletic, friendly, artistic and smart, John Moxley said. Her mother, Dorthy Moxley, recalled a cheerful girl who played tennis, drew pictures and listened to Elton John. 

"One of her teachers wrote on her report card that when Martha walked in, it was like the sun coming up in the morning," Moxley once said. 

Her battered body was found Oct. 31, 1975, under a large tree on her property. 

Martha Moxley is buried next to her father, David, in Greenwich. A granite monument bears the family name and a carving of a long-stemmed rose for Martha, who loved yellow roses. 

Michael Skakel 

Just when his life finally seemed to stabilize, Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel was charged with a long-ago murder in a place of wealth and privilege. 

Skakel was arrested in January 2000 and charged with beating Martha Moxley to death with a golf club in Greenwich in 1975, when Skakel and Moxley were 15-year-old neighbors. 

Skakel, 41, grew up in Belle Haven, a gated shoreline community in Greenwich. It was a life of stately mansions, nannies and live-in tutors, private schools and planes, country clubs, weekend parties and ski trips. 

His aunt, Ethel Skakel Kennedy, is the widow of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. The Skakel money came from Great Lakes Carbon, a processor of industrial coke and other minerals. 

But the family fell apart when Skakel's mother, Anne, died of cancer in 1973. 

In 1978, after leading police on a high-speed chase in Windham, N.Y., Skakel was sent to the Elan School in Poland Spring, Maine, a private school for teens with drug and alcohol problems. 

After a decade drifting in and out of rehabilitation centers, Skakel graduated from Curry College in Milton, Mass., in 1993 with a bachelor's degree in English. He quit drinking. 

He worked as an aide on Sen. Edward Kennedy's 1994 re-election campaign before joining his cousin, Michael Kennedy, in 1995 at Citizens Energy Corp., a Boston nonprofit. In 1996, he went to Cuba with cousins Michael and Robert Kennedy to meet Fidel Castro. 

He got married and moved to Cohasset, Mass., where his wife, Margot, worked as a golf pro. 

In 1997, Skakel was identified as the main contact with prosecutors investigating Michael Kennedy's alleged extramarital affair with his children's underage baby sitter. 

Skakel, who now lives in Windham, N.Y., reached a divorce settlement with his wife last year in which the couple shares custody of their 3-year-old son. 

Jonathan Benedict 

Jonathan Benedict, a 55-year-old Vietnam veteran who grew up in Fairfield, has been a prosecutor since 1976. He was promoted to Bridgeport state's attorney in 1997. 

Benedict seldom commented to the media during the Skakel trial, saying he preferred to "completely black out whatever is going on behind me." 

Benedict has tried other high-profile cases, including the murder trials of Adrian and Russell Peeler. The Bridgeport brothers were accused of gunning down a woman and her 8-year-old son. The boy was expected to testify against Russell Peeler in an earlier murder. 

Adrian Peeler was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, while Russell was convicted of plotting the murders. 

"John is an extremely intelligent, thoughtful and methodical prosecutor," said attorney Bruce Koffsky, who defended Adrian Peeler. "He's not flashy in the John Grisham mode of lawyers." 

Benedict wins many convictions by presenting evidence in a straightforward manner, Koffsky said. 

"One of his greatest strengths is he's likable and believable," Koffsky said. 

Michael Sherman 

Michael Skakel's defense attorney loves the spotlight. He's a fixture on television, including Court TV. 

Michael Sherman, who grew up in Greenwich, gained fame in 1991 when he successfully defended a Vietnam veteran against a manslaughter charge by claiming the man suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. 

That's typical of Sherman, said Bruce Koffsky, an attorney in Stamford. 

"Mickey's greatest strength as a trial lawyer is being novel and inventive," Koffsky said. "His inventiveness has often won him victories by having the jury consider things the prosecutor never even considered." 

Sherman, 55, has been known to give interviews on his cell phone while riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle or snowboarding down a mountain. 

During jury selection Sherman made several unorthodox moves, accepting as members of the panel a police officer who was once assaulted by one of Sherman's clients, a nurse whose daughter is a prosecutor in Westchester County, N.Y., and a a woman whose friend's father was murdered. 

"People are so quick to want to prejudge people based upon their job or family affiliations," Sherman said at the time. "I've never subscribed to that notion." 

Judge John F. Kavanewsky Jr. 

Norwalk Superior Judge John F. Kavanewsky Jr., 49, began his law career at a firm in Norwalk in 1978. In 1981, he was an assistant prosecutor for the city of San Diego. 

He then served in private practice in Norwalk until he was appointed to the Superior Court in 1994. 

"I think he's an excellent judge. He seems particularly gifted in the area of temperament," said Hugh Keefe, a defense attorney in New Haven. 

Kavanewsky presided over what had been expected to be a media circus, but kept the trial orderly. 

While stern at times, he showed flashes of humor. His good humor did not, however, extend to a jury request for an outdoor barbecue during deliberations.