Skakel Decision Has Legal Community Talking

, The Connecticut Law Tribune


Michael Skakel
Michael Skakel

"Attorney Michael Sherman devoted four years and thousands of hours to Skakel's defense. His preparation included countless hours seeking out and interviewing witnesses, consulting with experts, researching legal issues, reviewing the enormous amount of discovery provided by the state, and using legal means to block the state's access to incriminating evidence. He prosecuted two pretrial appeals. Attorney Sherman used his judgment, developed over his more than three decades as a criminal defense attorney, to make strategic decisions," the press release stated. "Attorney Sherman presented a defense based on a three-fold strategy: attacking the state's evidence, presenting an alibi, and presenting a third party culpability defense. This strategy failed not because of any flaw in Sherman's representation but because of the strength of the state's evidence."

Prosecutors said they have confidence that the jury's guilty verdict wasn't based on any shortcomings on Sherman's part, but on Skakel's "uncontested connection to the murder weapon, strong evidence of motive, substantial evidence of consciousness of guilt, nearly a dozen incriminating admissions and three unequivocal confessions."

Defense attorneys had another view.

"The prosecution has never had a good case against Michael Skakel," said Seeger, the co-defense counsel. "This was a 25-year-old case when [the trial] began, and it rested entirely upon thin and dated circumstantial evidence. I got the impression early that the state wanted to drive home the [wealth and] privilege theme, and that this case was a little more personal than other ones. For the most part, the evidence unfolded in a way that didn't appear to favor conviction at all."

Like others, he credited a strong closing argument by prosecutor Jon Benedict with swaying the jury.

So who might have an advantage if the case goes to trial again? Prosecutor-turned-defense attorney Diamond said neither side will. Both prosecution and defense, he said, will have to deal with the spoilage of evidence and witnesses. And both sides will have the advantage of reading the transcript of the first trial.

In short, Diamond said, "both sides equally have the advantage of having gone through it once."•

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