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Skakel may seek a new trial: Claim points to other suspects

September 8, 2003

A Connecticut law enforcement official involved in the Michael Skakel murder case says that Skakel's lawyers probably will seek a new trial, saying that Skakel's former lawyer ignored a claim that two Bronx teenagers whose names never surfaced previously killed 15-year-old Martha Moxley in 1975.

"It's an attack on [Mickey] Sherman's effectiveness at trial," said the official, who asked for anonymity. "This sets up a habeas petition for ineffective assistance that Skakel's due process rights were violated."

Sherman, Skakel's former lawyer who did not return a call yesterday, has acknowledged knowing of and not pursuing the claim before the trial began.

At Michael Skakel's trial last year, Sherman alleged that Kenneth Littleton, who moved into the Skakel house in Greenwich, Conn., the night of the murder, had confessed to killing Martha. Skakel was convicted of murder and is serving 20 years to life in prison.

Skakel's new lawyer, Hope Seeley, dropped a bombshell last week, saying she had new evidence from Gitano "Tony" Bryant that two friends of his had murdered Martha. Tony Bryant is a cousin of basketball star Kobe Bryant, who is charged with raping a woman at a Colorado spa.

Martha Moxley was beaten to death with a golf club belonging to the Skakels on Halloween eve, 1975, after she left their home.

According to The Hartford Courant, Tony Bryant, a former classmate of Skakel's at a Greenwich private school who now lives in Florida, now says he visited the Belle Haven section of Greenwich, where Martha lived, on the night of the murder with two friends from the Bronx. The two allegedly discussed attacking a girl. The next day they allegedly confessed to Bryant that they had killed Martha.

It is not clear why Bryant waited nearly three decades before telling this story. Seeley did not return a call seeking comment.

Fairfield County State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict, who prosecuted Skakel, said, "If there is persuasive information that Mr. Skakel is actually innocent, we are eager to hear it because he is sitting in jail. It is difficult for us to understand why the defense or anybody else is keeping this to themselves."

A private investigator for the Skakels, Vito Colucci, said he recently had interviewed the two Bronx men, but declined to give their names or whereabouts or whether they admitted killing Martha.

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© 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.