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Moxley Case: Defense witness gives Skakel alibi

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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 first witness to testify for the defense said he was with Michael Skakel at the time police initially believed Martha Moxley was killed, giving the Kennedy cousin an alibi in the 26-year-old crime.

James Dowdle, who was known as James Terrien when he was growing up, testified that he had dinner with the defendant and his family at the Belle Haven Country Club and returned to the Skakel home with them at about 9 p.m. on Oct. 30, 1975.

Dowdle said Thomas Skakel, the defendant's older brother, remained behind speaking to Martha Moxley, while Dowdle, Michael Skakel and to other Skakel brothers left to take Dowdle home at about 9:30 p.m.

The defendant was at the Dowdle home watching "Monty Python's Flying Circus" on television at 10 p.m. and did not leave the home until about 10:50 p.m., according to Dowdle. The defense hinges largely on establishing through circumstantial evidence that Martha Moxley was killed with a golf club which came from the Skakel home, at about 10 p.m.  at a time in which Michael Skakel was 20 minutes away by car.

Jurors heard Wednesday, however, from Skakel himself that the group left his home at 8:15 p.m., contradicting the defense position. The claim came in the form of taped interview a book writer conducted with Skakel in 1997 and in which skakel also admitted that later that night he climbed a tree on the Moxley property and masturbated.

Skakel said on the recording that after Martha's body was found the next afternoon, he panicked and was concerned that if anyone knew he had been up in the tree, they might conclude that he was the killer. Dowdle, who lives in the Bahamas, did not recall many details about the night of the murder, and some of his recollections were different than Skakel's.

Dowdle could not remember who attended the dinner at the Belle Haven club, who may or may not have been drinking alcohol, which car was used to take Skakel home that night and whether the teenagers used drugs while watching television.

The defense claims that the inconsistencies are not about material facts and are the result of the passage of 26 years.

"It happened so long ago. I can't remember those kinds of details," Dowdle said.

Prosecutor Jonathan Benedict asked Dowdle if he remembers declining an "invitation" to testify to the grand jury in 1998. Dowdle explained that he was not n notified that he was wanted for the grand jury until police officers in the Bahamas knocked on his door they day before.

It was not entered into evidence but defense lawyer Mickey Sherman held a copy of a 1975 TV Guide in his hand as he questioned Dowdle about watching the 30-minute program with Michael Skakel at 10 p.m.

As the defense continues, several of Skakel's six siblings are expected to testify.

Before he called his first witness, Sherman made a motion to have the judge enter an acquittal on the grounds that the prosecution presented insufficient evidence to warrant a conviction. The prosecution rested its case Tuesday.

In other testimony, jurors heard from Skakel's older brother, Rushton Skakel Jr. of Colombia, that the defendant was in the family's Lincoln at 9:30 p.m. for the trip to Dowdle's house.

David Skakel, 38, testified that he heard "Zocks," a neighbor's dog, bark incessantly about 10 p.m. the night of the murder. "It appeared to me Zock(s) was barking toward the Moxley's house," said the witness, who was 11 years old in 1975.

The defense wants jurors to believe that the murder was being committed at 10 p.m., when Michael Skakel was at Dowdle's.

The defense also called former prosecution investigator Jack Solomon to testify about his pursuit of Skakel family tutor as a suspect in 1991 and 1992. Solomon, now a small town police chief in neary Easton, testified that investigators asked Kenneth Littleton's ex-wife to try to get him to confess to the crime by telling him he had already confessed when he was in a drunken blackout.

Solomon denied telling the woman, Mary Baker, to lie to Littleton. Despite Baker's best efforts, Littleton came nowhere close to confessing during a secretly taped meeting in a Boston hotel room that investigators monitored. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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