KENNEDY cousin Michael Skakel is still guilty, insist two members of the original jury that convicted him of murdering a teenage neighbour.
Jurors Christia Valentino and Laura Copeland are astonished at a Connecticut judge’s decision last week to order a new trial for Skakel.
Skakel – the nephew of Bobby and Ethel Kennedy – was caged in 2002 for the 1975 slaying of pretty Connecticut teen Martha Moxley.
The ruling – more than a quarter of a century after the crime – heaped shame on the Irish Catholic Kennedy clan.
Despite many of the Kennedys distancing themselves from Skakel, his cousin Bobby Kennedy Junior has campaigned for his release, saying he is innocent of the heinous crime.
The judge made the decision to order the new trial on the grounds that Skakel’s attorney Michael Sherman did not sufficiently represent him.
Miss Valentino, 67, one of the jurors who deliberated three days before finding Skakel guilty in 2002, said that while she was not impressed by defense lawyer Sherman’s performance, she thinks he “did an adequate job.”
“We did the best we could to see that justice was served at the time,” she said. “I feel confidence in the decision I made at the time.”
Miss Copeland, 50, blasted “I guess if you have money, you get to keep appealing until you get a judge to say what you want him to say.
“I still believe he did it. I still believe we made the right decision.”
In a 136-page ruling, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Bishop said Skakel, 53, is entitled to another shot at proving his innocence because of a series of errors and failures by Sherman.
Among the mistakes highlighted by the judge: Sherman did not challenge a juror with ties to the police; he failed to present a potential alibi witness; he didn’t try to find witnesses who could have refuted testimony that Skakel had confessed years before; and he delivered a “disjointed” closing argument.
The judge criticised Skakel’s attorney Sherman for his decision not to focus more attention on Skakel’s older brother Thomas, who said he had a sexual encounter with Moxley the night she was killed, as the possible killer to sow reasonable doubt in the mind of the jury.
“The defense of a serious felony prosecution requires attention to detail, an energetic investigation and a coherent plan of defense capably executed,” Bishop wrote. “Trial counsel’s failures in each of these areas of representation were significant and, ultimately, fatal to a constitutionally adequate defense.”
Added Miss Copeland: “Unless someone comes forward and says they saw it happen or there’s DNA evidence, in my heart of hearts I believe he did it,” she said. “I don’t have a problem sleeping at night.”
Miss Valentino said she felt bad for Martha Moxley’s heartbroken mother, Dorothy, who faithfully attended the five-week trial.
“She was there every day with her son and now she has to go through this all again?” she said.
After the ruling, Mrs Moxley said she has not changed her mind about who killed her teenage daughter: “Michael Skakel is very, very guilty.”
Meanwhile, Bobby Kennedy Junior is convinced the new trial will set his cousin free.
“There was no credible evidence against him that couldn’t have been challenged by much stronger evidence,” said Kennedy. “And if he gets another trial, he’s got good lawyers now and there’s no way in the world that he will be convicted.”