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Sentencing Raises Passions of Moxleys, Skakels

Aired August 29, 2002 - 14:09   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We're now going to take it back to Deborah Feyerick. She has more reaction from Martha Moxley's family -- Deborah.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Kyra, the Moxley family seemed to say that this was a reasonable sentence. They had asked the judge that Michael Skakel receive the maximum sentence of life if prison. But they said that this is OK.

They did have some strong feelings about the very emotional statement Michael Skakel made to the judge.


DORTHY MOXLEY, MARTHA'S MOTHER: It's my general nature to have a little sympathy toward everybody. So I did. But, you know, I still feel as though he has to be punished for what he did to Martha and what he's done to so many other people.


FEYERICK: Again, they're feeling very passionate about this, as did the Skakel family. The Skakel family made an all-out effort to try to get the judge to side on leniency. And it does appear that the judge did that by giving a ruling of 20 years to life.

Just to sort of again go over what, really, this means, Stan Twardy, who was a former U.S. attorney here in Connecticut.

Twenty years to life, how much will he really serve?

STAN TWARDY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, the Department of Corrections has now calculated that 20 years -- on the 20-year part of it, he'll be eligible for parole after 11-and-a-half years. Then it's going to be up to the parole board to determine whether or not they're going to let him out in 11-and-a-half years, at what time thereafter.

And that's solely up to them. The parole board will be able to consider everything that Judge Kavanewsky has considered. They'll be able to consider his sentence and his words at sentencing at the time that matter comes before them in 11-and-a-half years from now.

FEYERICK: The judge was extremely organize. He had his sentence ready to go, maybe not yesterday, but certainly when he walked into the courtroom this morning because even though representatives of the Skakel family spoke, it really didn't take him very much time to consider the speeches that they did give.

TWARDY: Well, I'm sure that the judge had really wrestled with this. He had -- all of the documents have been filed. The numerous letters have been filed by the Skakel family. He had read their briefs, clearly. He spent last night reading their briefs. I'm sure he was touched by what Skakel himself said.

But at the of the day this judge was a prepared judge. And we've seen that throughout this whole case, as he has tried the case, and as he did today in the sentencing.

FEYERICK: Great. Stan Twardy, thank you so much.

Again, just, Kyra, to go back over the statement that Michael Skakel did make. It was the first time that we really heard him speak at any length.

I spoke to one of his defense attorneys, and the defense attorney said that there was a real sense of relief that he was finally able to address the court. Now, he did have a chance to address the court during the trial. At any point he could have taken the stand and testified on his own behalf. He chose not to do that, letting the judge hear his voice for the first time in an extended amount of time.

He came across as very religious, a very spiritual man. He said, I've been accused of a crime, and I'd love to be able to say I did it so it would give the Moxleys some rest. He said, though, I can't do that because I can't bear false witness against myself. Again, very religious nature to this speech that he was giving to the judge.

He walked out of the courtroom, his family craning to see him one more time. He did change out of his prison -- he changed out of his suit that he was wearing in court, back into the prison uniform, the khaki prison uniform that he is required to wear.

He's going back to a high security prison, level four; that's level four out of five levels.

Again, some sense of relief that, knowing how much time he's going to have to serve, at least it puts some sort of a figure, some sort of a cap on it.

Jason Carroll, also a CNN correspondent, was covering the court inside.

You were very close to the Skakel family.

And again, what was their reaction? How did they appear to you? How did they react? What stood out?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very emotional. And that emotion really started exactly when Michael Skakel stood up, addressed the court and gave what some said to be a very emotional plea where he mentioned his son, he mentioned religion several times.

I was sitting directly behind the Skakel family -- the row directly behind them. At that point one of his brothers started crying. A friend also started crying, many of the Skakels at that point. Very emotional.

So when it finally came time for the judge to issue the sentence, many of them had already been crying. And the crying basically continued at that point.

But again, I think some of them knew this was coming. During the break before the sentencing actually happened they were discussing with him -- I overheard discussions about how to get newspaper articles to him, how to get magazines to him while he would be in prison. So I think they knew this was coming.

FEYERICK: And just very quickly, did any of them reach out to try to touch him as he was being let out of the court.

CARROLL: Not at that point. And during break, actually, the bailiffs of the court obviously would not let them reach out, even shake his hand for security reasons.

FEYERICK: OK Jason, thanks so much.

So Kyra, that's the latest from Norwalk, Connecticut. And, of course, we'll have more for you.

Back to you in Atlanta.

FEYERICK: Deborah Feyerick and Jason Carroll, thank you so much.




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