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Moxley Case: Key witness testifies from grave

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

(Court TV) -- The prosecution's 29th witness at Michael Skakel's murder trial, if you can call it that, died of a heroin overdose last year but his words live on in a court transcript read to jurors Friday.

Prosecutor Christopher Morano sat in the witness box and read the testimony of Gregory Coleman, who attend a Maine treatment center for troubled youths with Skakel in 1978.

Coleman, jurors heard, testified on April 18, 2001, that he was armed with a baseball bat guarding Skakel sometime in November 1978 because Skakel had run away from the facility. Noting that Skakel was permitted to play records even though he was being punished by the staff of the Elan School for running way, Coleman testified that he commented, "Boy, this guy can get away with murder."

Coleman said the first words he ever heard out of Skakel's mouth were, "I am going to get away with murder. I am a Kennedy."

The nephew of Ethel Kennedy, Skakel is on trial for the golf club beating death of 15-year-old Greenwich, Conn., neighbor Martha Moxley in 1975. The testimony of Coleman, a Rochester, N.Y., man who died of a heroin overdose in August, marked the fifth time jurors had heard that Skakel was conflicted in 1978 about whether he was involved in the killing. Higgins and Coleman were the only witnesses who testified that Skakel specifically admitted involvement in the killing.

According to the transcript of Coleman's testimony, Skakel allegedly said that he "drove in the skull" of Martha Moxley because she "spurned his advances." A previous Elan witness testified that Skakel claimed one of his brothers stole his "girlfriend," which the prosecution claims is the motive for the killing.

"He indicated that he had hit her so hard that the golf club broke in half," Coleman said at the pre-trial probable cause hearing.

Coleman, like many of the state's civilian witnesses, came with baggage. At the probable cause hearing, he testified that Skakel told him something that simply could not have happened.

"He made the comment that two days later he had gone back to the body and masturbated on the body," Coleman testified. "That's what he told me."

Skakel, by then, was in Windham, N.Y., with his brother, Thomas Skakel, and family tutor Kenneth Littleton -- both of whom were earlier suspects in the Moxley murder.

Before court adjourned Friday afternoon, jurors were listening to defense lawyer Mickey Sherman's cross-examination of Coleman's testimony. This time, co-defense counsel Mark Sherman was in the witness box reading the part of Coleman.

Coleman admitted during his pretrial testimony that he told a one-judge grand jury in 1998 that Michael Skakel told him that he used a "driver," or one-wood, to bludgeon Martha. In fact, the murder weapon was a six-iron that came from the set of the seven Skakel children's deceased mother.

"...My recall at times is questionable," explained Coleman, who had spent time in Attica prison and had been addicted to heroin and other drugs for most of his adult life.

But then, as the transcript reflected, Coleman made an admission that sent reporters running for the phones at the time. Coleman explained his memory lapse and contradictions in testimony on the fact that he had taken heroin about an hour before he testified.

When the trial resumes Monday, jurors will hear the rest of Coleman's April 2001 testimony. The defense told Judge John Kavanewsky Jr. that it will argue that jurors should also hear Coleman's testimony before a juvenile court judge in its entirety during June 2000. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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