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Connecticut judge says Kennedy cousin Skakel won't be released yet

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FILE: Oct. 24, 2012: Michael Skakel, left, addresses a parole board with his attorneys Hope Seeley, center, and Hubert Santos, right, at his side during a parole hearing at McDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Conn. (AP)

A judge said Wednesday that Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel cannot be released immediately while he awaits a new trial in the 1975 slaying of neighbor Martha Moxley.

But Judge Thomas Bishop did lift a stay, which could clear the way for Skakel to seek bail later. Prosecutors can appeal the decision on the stay, which would likely keep Skakel behind bars for the time being.

Bishop ruled on Oct. 23 that Skakel's trial attorney failed to adequately represent him in 2002 when he was found guilty in Moxley's golf club bludgeoning. Skakel and Moxley were 15-year-old neighbors in wealthy Greenwich at the time of her death.

Skakel's attorneys want him to be freed while awaiting a retrial, saying that keeping him in prison would be a miscarriage of justice. Prosecutors objected to the request for bond and are appealing the ruling granting Skakel a new trial.

Skakel, the 53-year-old nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel Kennedy, is serving 20 years to life.

His current attorney, Hubert Santos, filed a motion after the ruling seeking a $500,000 bond.

Prosecutors said in a legal brief that Bishop doesn't have the authority to grant bond because of an automatic stay of his ruling while they appeal.

Bishop lifted the stay Wednesday.

Prosecutor Susann Gill argued against terminating the stay, saying it would thwart the administration of justice by requiring the state to retry Skakel before an appeal is finished.

"The state is entitled to avail itself of the appellate process and seek vindication of a result it believes to be unjust," Gill wrote in legal briefs.

Santos said automatic stays during appeals do not apply to cases like Skakel's and even if they did Bishop has the authority to terminate it.

Skakel "has been returned to the status of an innocent defendant awaiting trial," Santos wrote in court papers, adding he was not a flight risk and contends it's "highly unlikely" prosecutors will win their appeal.

Gill said she disagrees that an appeal likely won't be successful.

Sherman, the trial attorney, has said he did all he could to prevent Skakel's conviction.

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