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Moxley Case: Skakel arraigned as adult

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Editor's Note: As part of CNN.com's new Crime section, we are archiving some of the most interesting content from CourtTVNews.com. This story was first published in 2001.

(Court TV) -- Dressed in a conservative blue suit and a starched white shirt, Michael Skakel could have been going to a business meeting rather than a courthouse. And from his placid demeanor, one might have thought the Kennedy cousin was relaxing at the family compound on Cape Cod rather than being arraigned for the brutal 1975 murder of Martha Moxley.

But as Judge John Kavanewsky read the charges against Skakel and informed him of his rights, one thing was clear -- a quarter century after the 15-year-old Moxley was found beaten to death outside her home, her neck pierced by the broken shaft of a 6-iron, the murder case against Robert F. Kennedy's nephew has become very real.

Not only were the charges against Skakel formally made, the five-minute arraignment was also the first proceeding against him in adult court. Because Skakel was only 15 at the time of the murder, the juvenile court system previously handled the matter, until a Connecticut judge transferred the case to adult court in a January 31 decision. Although Skakel defense attorney Mickey Sherman has appealed the ruling, Kavanewsky decided late last week to proceed with the arraignment.

Skakel was read his Miranda rights and also informed of his entitlement to a probable cause hearing on the charges, a right that he exercised. "I didn't say I want to lay down and play dead," defense attorney Mickey Sherman told Court TV after the arraignment. "I intend to vigorously fight in that probable cause hearing."

A probable cause hearing was held last year in juvenile court on the charges. Although Judge Maureen Dennis ruled that the state had enough evidence to charge Skakel, Sherman says that he thinks a new hearing may yield different results.

"The probable cause hearing will bring the witnesses here," he said. "I don't think the judge will buy their testimony this time."

A spokesperson from the prosecutors office could not be reached.

Skakel is not required to enter a plea until after the probable cause hearing. Connecticut law requires that such hearings occur within 60 days of arraignment, and the parties agreed to an April 18 date for the hearing.

Although Moxley's brother John could not attend the arraignment because of other family matters, he told the Associated Press, "I think (the arraignment) is a major milestone for us. The only thing we ever wanted was answers to the questions the investigation has brought up and a fair trial."

Also discussed at the arraignment was a motion for a change of venue filed by the prosecutor, who wants the trial held in Bridgeport rather than Stamford. Both prosecutor Jonathan Benedict and Sherman have filed motions in the matter, and Kavanewsky scheduled a hearing for February 28 to hear their arguments.

Some commentators have suggested that prosecutors want the trial moved to blue-collar and heavily minority Bridgeport because the Kennedy relative might get less sympathy there than from a jury drawn from the privileged white suburban enclaves surrounding Stamford.

But others think less nefarious considerations are behind the motion. Benedict's office is in Bridgeport while Sherman is based in Stamford -- and the traffic on Interstate 95, the road that links the two cities, is notoriously bad.

Moxley and Skakel were next-door neighbors in an exclusive gated community in Greenwich, Conn. When the young girl was found murdered outside her home, police matched the golf club with which she was killed to a set belonging to the Skakel family.

For years no charges were filed, with police considering Thomas Skakel, Michael's brother, and an in-house tutor as primary suspects in the case. In the early 1990s, several books came out about the mystery, one of which fingered Michael Skakel as the killer. He was arrested in January 2000. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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