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Killing in Greenwich: Michael Skakel Appealing Transfer to Adult Court

Aired February 21, 2001 - 10:33 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you now to the state's attorney general in Connecticut.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MATTHEW COULOUTE, ASST. STATE'S ATTORNEY: The state will file a motion to dismiss that appeal sometime in the next two weeks. However, in a juvenile matter that has been transferred to a superior court, there is no automatic stay. Nor has counsel requested an automatic stay, meaning that we will continue the prosecution in this matter.

On April 18, there will be an HBC or a hearing of probable cause. That is by statute in the state of Connecticut. Anyone charged with the offense in which you can do actually life imprisonment or is subject to the death penalty, it is mandatory that a person has an HBC at their request. Now, based on that and the fact that the case is now pending criminal matter, it is our policy that we really won't take any questions and answer interrogatories regarding the factual allegations in this case.

So I appreciate your time this morning. And thank you.

HARRIS: I apologize for -- that is Matthew Couloute who is state attorney for Connecticut, now just coming out and making a brief statement after the hearing this morning, the arraignment for Michael Skakel.

We were just talking to our Deborah Feyerick about this case now. The latest word that we're getting from the state attorney is that the next stage in this case is going to come on April 18. There will be a hearing for probable cause in the -- I am being told now we're going -- that Mickey Sherman, Skakel's attorney, is now speaking at the microphone.

MICKEY SHERMAN, SKAKEL'S ATTY.: A brief synopsis of what happened in court this morning: The judge arraigned Michael Skakel, advised him formally of the charges against him, which is murder. He was advised of his rights.

The judge then asked us to acknowledge the fact that we are not asking for an automatic stay or invoking our right, if it exists, to an automatic stay. It's been our determination to move this case forward and not to occasion any undue delays. So we said, no, let's go forward with this arraignment. I may change my mind. I may say later on that we should have a stay depending on what the appellate court does or does not do with respect to the appeal.

But at this point, I saw no need to hold up the works here. And lets go forward, at least at this stage. The next order of business was the judge asking us to be heard on the state's motion for a change of venue from this locality in Stamford to Bridgeport. We were prepared, but the judge wanted additional time. We just filed another memorandum yesterday on the issue. The state asked for a week. The judge postponed that until the 28th.

QUESTION: Mickey why do you want the trial here in Stamford? You would think that, as a defense attorney, because of all the publicity, you would want it up in Bridgeport.

SHERMAN: The question is: Why do I want it here because of all of the publicity, want it -- in Bridgeport. You don't think they have heard of the Skakel case up in Bridgeport? I would have to go to Mars not to find a jury that hasn't heard about it. That is not the standard anymore. It's not the bar: that they've heard about it. Everybody is going to hear about this case, thanks to you folks and anyone else, which I don't blame.

But the issue is whether or not people can be fair and impartial, keep an open mind, and allow Michael Skakel to enjoy a presumption of innocence. I believe a jury up there can do that. But you know something? The case happened here. The case should be tried here.

QUESTION: Why are you so adamant about going through this probable cause hearing?

SHERMAN: He didn't do it. Michael Skakel didn't commit this crime. A probable cause hearing will bring the witnesses here. They will be forced, again, to testify. And I don't think a judge may, in fact, buy their testimony this time. That's why.

QUESTION: Do you think you're going to get this case dismissed?

SHERMAN: I think it's very conceivable a judge, upon hearing the evidence, could not find probable cause. I am not going through with it just as an exercise in futility -- not at all. We are going to win.

QUESTION: Mickey, a juvenile judge found probable cause in juvenile court. What might -- how might that change in adult court? Is there a different standard?

SHERMAN: Different standard. One is reasonable cause in a juvenile court: here it is probable cause. Don't ask me the difference. You have got to talk to a legal expert. But with respect to why I think it's going to be different, things change. Those witnesses may not testify to the same thing. There may be different witnesses. And you have got a different judge. And now we're kind of in the big ballpark.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SHERMAN: You saw how -- my client is handling it pretty well. I think you saw him. I thought he did pretty well today. I mean, he didn't break up and go through the histrionics that people have written about, which I kind of disagree with. No, he is standing tall. He is ready for this case to move on.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) no options this morning on a plea, is that correct?

SHERMAN: No options on a plea?

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN: No, under the statute, he's not put to plea at this point.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) SHERMAN: I am sorry?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SHERMAN: No, no. The sandbag reference was, the state said that they had just gotten a memorandum from us yesterday regarding the issue of change of venue. And I just wanted to make sure the judge knew that we didn't sandbag them, because it was only set -- we were only told yesterday that we were going to argue this issue today. And we all agreed that that wasn't the case.

QUESTION: Mickey, is there any chance for a plea bargain in this case?

SHERMAN: The question is: Is there any chance for a plea bargain in this case? Not a shot in hell. I can't be clearer than that: not a shot. OK?

QUESTION: Mickey, when do you expect to hear from the appellate court? And how might that affect you?

SHERMAN: When we will hear from the appellate court? I wish I knew. I don't know. Hopefully within a reasonable time. I have long since tried to -- I have long -- I have given up when we are going to hear from courts.

QUESTION: Before April 18? Is before April 18 possible?

SHERMAN: Anything's possible.

QUESTION: And today you waived your automatic stay. (OFF-MIKE)

SHERMAN: That is correct. We waived an automatic stay, which may or may not even exist. But we reserved our right to ask for a discretionary stay if we feel that that is appropriate at any time.

Yes? QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SHERMAN: I saw it. I saw it. Gregory Coleman, one of the witnesses in this case, did give a television interview on channel 10 -- Rochester, if I believe. I did see it. It's interesting. And that's one of the reasons why I want another probable cause hearing. Let's get Gregory back in. OK?

QUESTION: Can you repeat that?

SHERMAN: I said Gregory Coleman gave an interview on channel 10, Rochester, last week. I watched it. I saw the tape. I would sure like to see the outtakes of that tape as well. But I don't think I'm going to get that. And that is one of the reasons why I would like to see Gregory Coleman back here. Let's get him back on the stand.

QUESTION: Have you been notified

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN: I am sorry?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) how long...

SHERMAN: I am guessing a couple days. Yes.

QUESTION: Have you been notified about any other witnesses coming forward, one might even being a relative?

SHERMAN: The only way that I have been notified of any other witnesses is by reading the magazines and the articles and seeing some of the tabloids.

I don't buy it. I mean, maybe somebody's come forward, but I personally do not believe it. I think the relative story is a great story, but I don't think it has anything to do with the truth. OK?

All right, thank you, folks.

HARRIS: You've been listening to Mickey Sherman there. He is the attorney representing Michael Skakel in this case that's gotten so much scrutiny.

Let's go now to our Deborah Feyerick who's been standing by just off the steps in the courtroom. She's been listening in -- Deborah.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leon, a couple of key points made by both sides, both very eager and very ready to go forward with this.

The prosecution saying that, you know, they are ready, they've got their case. And now it's in adults court, they feel very confident that they can move on.

Now, as for Mickey Sherman, Michael Skakel's lawyer, he says that his client is standing tall. He, too, is also ready to move on. That they want this trial to proceed.

What we are going to be having in the next couple of weeks on April 18th is a probable cause hearing. There's a different standard in that hearing. And so Mickey Sherman, Michael Skakel's lawyer, very confident that in fact, the judge just doesn't think that there will be a lot of evidence.

We feel that -- oh, there is an investigator now at the podium. We're going to take him.

STEVE CARROLL, CASE INVESTIGATOR: We will go to trial.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

CARROLL: I think that it can. I think that it's been proven in the tabloids and in the papers and on TV that these old crimes have been prosecuted, and there have been convictions.

QUESTION: So you believe that it's about evidence and not about sufficient witnesses?

CARROLL: I believe that the prosecution -- the prosecutor's officer, the state attorney's office has gotten an awful lot of stuff on this. I am out of their loop, so I really don't know. But I believe that they really do have some good evidence.

QUESTION: Do you think...

CARROLL: I think he's very guilty.

QUESTION: Why?

CARROLL: For a number of things that have come up since the murder in 1975 that I really can't discuss.

QUESTION: Can you tell us when he was investigated and what evidence that you think that there was?

CARROLL: Not really. Not without divulging evidence that the prosecution might have.

QUESTION: Is there a question in there?

CARROLL: Yes, I am now.

QUESTION: One of the original investigators in this...

CARROLL: My impression of Michael Skakel?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

CARROLL: Well, I think he's -- he's got to be nervous. He's been finally brought to the stand where he's got answer for this. And then he's got an awful lot of other things going on in his life that he wishes go away.

QUESTION: How do you feel about having seeing him stand in front of the judge as an adult?

CARROLL: Well, I think that he should be standing there as an adult. And I think that it's about time, really. I think he and the family have been trying to hide this for a lot of years.

QUESTION: Were you involved in this case? What was it that -- what was it that you (OFF-MIKE) of the original quote of missed and now it's here?

CARROLL: Well originally the suspect was his brother, Tommy Skakel. And it's only come to pass in since 1991, that Michael, who is now the chief suspect. And there's been, as you say, statements from the Elan School and other evidence that's come out that pretty much proves that it is Michael.

QUESTION: Do you believe that there may have been (OFF-MIKE) more than -- that this family may know more about this?

CARROLL: That's a good possibility.

QUESTION: Do you think that there will be any other witnesses or relatives from the Skakel family that might come forward?

CARROLL: I read that in the paper and I have no idea who it is. But...

QUESTION: Do you think that that possibly still may exist?

CARROLL: The relative? Oh, I think he definitely exists if they put it in the paper.

QUESTION: Do you believe that that may actually happen?

CARROLL: That a relative will come forward? Testify? I have no doubt about it. The prosecution put it in the paper. Why not?

Thanks, guys.

HARRIS: That was Steve Carroll. He is the case investigator who has been working on this case. He did say that he could comment the way that he has this morning about his beliefs in Michael Skakel's guilt because he is not a part of the prosecution team in this case who has -- that team has chosen to not speak at all about that. That's the reason why they didn't take any questions.

Let's go back now to our Deborah Feyerick, who's been standing by there outside the courtroom -- Deborah.

FEYERICK: Well, Leon, and just briefly, Steven Carroll, who you just heard from, he was one of the original investigators on this case. They were never able to bring enough evidence to try anyone back in 1975. That's going to be the big question now: Is there simply enough physical evidence to actually try this case, to find whoever did it? Michael Skakel, guilty of this crime. And so that's what they are going to have to look for. There was never any blood found; never any fingerprints. And so, you know, that's a big question mark as to what they do have.

HARRIS: All right, thanks much, Deborah Feyerick, trying to help us keep all that stuff straight.

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