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Kennedy Cousin Michael Skakel Released from Prison

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Michael Skakel spent 11 years in prison and is now free, awaiting a new trial on charges he murdered Martha Moxley in 1975. (Published Thursday, Nov 21, 2013)

    Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel is free after more than 11 years in prison while prosecutors appeal a ruling granting him a new trial in the 1975 slaying of a neighbor.

    A judge today  set his bond at $1.2 million cash or surety, with conditions, and Skakel is now out of prison.

    Skakel, the 53-year-old nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel Kennedy, has been serving 20 years to life in the death of Martha Moxley, his Greenwich neighbor, in 1975.

    One condition of his release today is that Skakel remain in the state of Connecticut unless he has court approval to leave. He will have to wear a GPS tracking device and was ordered no contact with the family of Martha Moxley.

    Court Video: Michael Skakel Granted Bail

    [AP] Court Video: Michael Skakel Granted Bail
    Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel was granted bail Thursday and expected to be released from prison while prosecutors in Connecticut appeal a ruling giving him a new trial in the 1975 slaying of neighbor Martha Moxley. (Published Thursday, Nov 21, 2013)

    The judge said Skakel will have to periodically report to a bail commissioner, which can happen by phone.

    The state's attorney was looking for bond to be set at close to $2 million, while defense attorney Hubert Santos argued that Skakel has appeared in court every time he has been asked to.

    "There were two tragedies that occured in Greenwich, Connecticut in 1975," Santos said outside the courthouse on Thursday. "The first was, of course, the murder of Martha Moxley -- a great tragedy for the Moxley family and for everyone else associated with the matter. The second great tragedy occured in a courthouse in Norwalk, Connecticut in 2002., when Michael was convicted of the murder of Martha Moxley, a murder he did not commit."

    Robert Kennedy Jr. said this week that he felt "pure joy" over the prospect of his cousin being released.

    This afternoon, the Skakel family released a statement.

    "This is the first step in correcting a terrible wrong. We look forward to Michael being vindicated and justice finally being served. 

    "We are thankful to God that after 11 and one half years he will be reunited with his son. We are grateful for the love and prayers of Michael's many supporters who have sustained him through this ordeal," the statement from the family said. 

    When Skakel went to prison, his son was 3 years old, Santos said. His son is now 14 years old.

    Skakel's release comes after Judge Thomas Bishop ruled last month that Skakel's trial attorney failed to adequately represent Skakel in 2002 when he was convicted in Moxley's bludgeoning with a golf club in wealthy Greenwich when they were 15.

    Moxley's family was there for the hearing and Moxley's mother, Dorthy, has said she remains convinced Skakel is guilty.

    "It's been a little over 11 years now, and John (her son) and I are still doing very well. .. We are free. We can do things. Michael still is a convicted criminal and the whole thing didn't have to be this way, but I think it's a lesson to parents. If your child does something wrong, face up to it," Dorthy Moxley said outside court today. "I'm disappointed, but this is life."

    Outside court today, Moxley's brother, John, said they stand behind the state, that it is a technicality that Michael Skakel is free and that Bishop's decision will be overturned.

    John Moxley said that, if there is another trial, they will be there for that too.

    When asked about her reaction to what happened today, Dorthy Moxley said they knew this day would come, so she was not "destroyed" by it, but wishes this had not happened. 

    John Moxley said they have nothing to say to Michael, but they do not feel unsafe.

    "I don't think he was a Jeffrey Dahmer or one of the mass murderers or has done anything like that, so as long as he was just a kid that had problems ... We don't have anything to be afraid of now," Dorthy Moxley said.

    Jim Bergenn, a legal expert, said today's hearing has nothing to do with punishment, but was simply to determine the bail amount is necessary to ensure that Skakel returns to court.

    "This isn't about dangerousness to the community, this isn't about anything other than a flight risk, and there's very little risk of flight," Bergenn said.

    The case of the Moxley murder prompted several books, including “A Season in Purgatory,” by Dominick Dunne, and “Murder in Greenwich,” by Mark Fuhrman.

    Santos said those books and media coverage are the reason his client did not get a fair trial.