STATE v. MICHAEL SKAKEL, SC 16844
Judicial District of Stamford 

Criminal; Statute of Limitations; Transfer of Case from Juvenile Docket to Regular Docket; Prosecutorial Misconduct; Nondisclosure of Exculpatory Evidence; Right to Confront Witness; Admission of Coerced Confessions. In 1975, 15 year old Martha Moxley of Greenwich was severely beaten and stabbed to death with a golf club late one night and was found the next day under a tree in her yard. The club, which had broken into pieces but was missing the portion of the shaft containing the grip, was found near the body and belonged to a set owned by Moxley's neighbors, the Skakels. Although the investigation at the time failed to produce an arrest, two Skakel brothers, including the defendant, were among the possible suspects. In 2000, the police finally arrested the defendant, who was then 39 years old, and charged him with murder. Because the defendant was 15 years old at the time of the murder, he was initially presented in juvenile court. That court subsequently granted the state's motion to transfer the case to the regular criminal docket in Superior Court on the grounds that the juvenile court was precluded from committing the defendant to the department of children and families because of his present age and that no alternative facilities were available. In Superior Court, the defendant moved to dismiss the murder charge, citing State v. Paradise, 189 Conn. 346 (1983). He argued that under Paradise, noncapital murder prosecutions were barred by the five year statute of limitations in effect in 1975; General Statutes (Rev. to 1975) 54-193; and that Public Acts 1976, No. 76-35, which eliminated the exception to the five year statute of limitations for Class A felonies, could not be applied retroactively. The trial court, however, denied the motion, concluding that statutes of limitations have historically been linked to the gravity of the offense and more recent cases have held that murder is not subject to any statute of limitations. The defendant was convicted by a jury and sentenced to 20 years to life. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the defendant claims that the case should never have been transferred to the regular criminal docket of the Superior Court because the juvenile court failed to conduct the required analysis of the defendant's personal circumstances and failed to adequately explore available facilities for his care and treatment within the state. He also argues that the trial court incorrectly denied the motion to dismiss because Paradise is directly on point. The defendant next claims that his "confessions" at the Elan School in Maine for troubled youth were involuntary and should have been excluded from evidence because they were the result of uncontroverted physical and psychological torture by the staff and students. He also argues that the trial court deprived him of his right to confront a witness who claimed that Skakel confessed to him during their time together at Elan. The witness was a convicted criminal and heroin addict who died from an overdose before trial but after testifying in front of a grand jury and in the defendant's probable cause hearing. The witness, however, admitted that he was either on heroin or in withdrawal when he testified and that his story contained mistakes. The defendant claims that the trial court failed to make a threshold finding as to the reliability of the witness' prior testimony. The defendant argues that this testimony, which was read into the record, was inherently unreliable and should have been excluded from evidence because the jury never had the chance to observe the witness' demeanor. He next claims that the state engaged in a pattern of prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument. He argues that the state asserted, without any evidence, that the Skakel family covered up the crime with an orchestrated alibi and sent Michael away to Elan because they believed that they "had a killer living under their roof." In addition, he argues that the state's use of the terms "the killer" and "spoiled brat" violated his due process rights. He further claims that the state falsely argued to the jury that the defendant had masturbated on the victim's dead body. Moreover, he argues that the state's use of an audio-visual presentation was highly prejudicial because the state had, in effect, concocted a voice-over "confession" to the crime. Finally, he claims that the trial court wrongly denied his motion for a new trial where the state failed to turn over--until after trial--a possibly exculpatory composite sketch of a person seen near the crime scene that night who resembled the defense's prime suspect: Kenneth Littleton, a tutor hired by the defendant's father. He similarly argues that the court incorrectly ruled that the state did not improperly withhold exculpatory police "profile reports" of Littleton and the defendant's brother Thomas as possible suspects.