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Kennedy cousin could be freed ahead of new trial for 1975 murder

Kennedy family nephew Michael Skakel is escorted by court officers to a vehicle for his return to prison from Norwalk Superior Court in Norw
Kennedy family nephew Michael Skakel is escorted by court officers to a vehicle for his return to prison from Norwalk Superior Court in Norw

By Richard Weizel

MILFORD, Connecticut (Reuters) - Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel could walk free from prison next week after 11 years behind bars as he awaits a new trial for the 1975 murder of a teen-age neighbor.

Skakel was granted the new trial last month by Superior Court Judge Thomas Bishop, who also has allowed him to seek bond in Connecticut's Stamford Superior Court, where he was convicted in 2002.

Skakel was found guilty of bludgeoning Martha Moxley to death with a golf club. The Moxley family and Skakel family were neighbors in Greenwich, Connecticut.

A hearing on his request for bond has been set for next Thursday in Stamford.

In allowing the bond hearing to proceed, Bishop lifted an automatic stay that had been imposed in the case, and prosecutors this week opted not to challenge that decision.

Skakel, 53, is a nephew of Ethel Kennedy and slain U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

Bridgeport State's Attorney John Smriga and Susan Gill, the assistant state's attorney who prosecuted Skakel 11 years ago, say they plan to appeal the decision that overturned the conviction.

"We will rigorously appeal the judge's decision overturning the conviction," Smriga said recently. "Right now we still hope there will be no new trial and that we will win on appeal."

Skakel and Moxley were both 15 when she was beaten to death. Her body was found on her parents' lawn.

Skakel, who has maintained his innocence, was arrested in 2000 and was unsuccessful in his bid to be tried as a juvenile.

He has served about half of a 20-years-to-life sentence.

In overturning the conviction, Bishop said Skakel had inadequate defense at his trial and criticized Skakel's former defense attorney, Michael Sherman, for "glaring ineffectiveness."

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Matthew Lewis)

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