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OpinionColumnistsLeonard Levitt

RFK Jr.’s Skakel book doesn’t make his case

Kennedy relative Michael Skakel gets into a car

Kennedy relative Michael Skakel gets into a car after walking out of a Stamford, Connecticut courthouse after his murder conviction in the death of Martha Moxley was vacated last month when a judge decided he did not receive adequate representation in his 2002 trial on November 21, 2013 in Stamford, Connecticut. Skakel, who was set free on a bail of $1.2 million, was convicted of the 1975 murder of a neighbor and will now face a new trial. Photo Credit: Getty / Spencer Platt

In a new book, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. maintains that cousin Michael Skakel was “framed” in the killing of neighbor Martha Moxley by an incompetent lawyer, a “corrupt” detective and prosecutor, and the media.

Moxley, 15, was beaten to death in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1975. The weapon was a golf club from a set found the next day in the Skakel home. The case drew intense national attention and has become a legal odyssey.

But Skakel wasn’t framed, as the title of Kennedy’s book alleges. Instead, perpetuating the basest of racial stereotypes, in “Framed” Kennedy points the finger at two men — one black, the other of mixed race.

“Kennedy also shows how he tracked down the likely killers, whose presence was detected neither by the police nor the press,” reads the book jacket. He offers no proof for his claims. The closest he comes is to write that the men admitted to him they were in Greenwich the night Moxley was killed.

On BizTalk radio, he told host Jim Campbell, “Both of the men . . . acknowledged on tape that they were there that night.”

Those statements are wrong. According to court documents, Kennedy secretly recorded the men in separate phone conversations in 2003, the year after Skakel’s conviction. But no such admissions appeared on either recording, according to transcripts made available to me.

At a 2007 hearing seeking a new trial for Skakel, based on Kennedy’s claims, Skakel’s lawyers didn’t offer any admissions as new evidence. In 2007, a judge denied Skakel’s motion for a new trial. In 2013, Skakel again sought a new trial, claiming his lawyer had been incompetent. A judge ruled Skakel had not received an adequate defense and granted a new trial. Prosecutors appealed the decision to Connecticut’s highest court, which is expected to rule in the next few months. Meanwhile, Skakel was released from prison, where he served 11 years of a 20-years-to-life sentence.

In response to questions about his claims, Kennedy emailed that he was on a hiking trip in Utah, but would respond by Aug. 8. He then emailed he would respond by Aug. 10.

He has not.

Leonard Levitt is the author of “Conviction: Solving the Moxley Murder.”

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