State drops request for Skakel DNA
By Lindsay Faber
- Greenwich Time
Prosecutors withdrew their request for Michael Skakel's DNA yesterday after testing evidence that included clippings from Martha Moxley's nails and unidentified hair samples.
The state filed a motion three weeks ago to retrieve blood and hair samples from Skakel, who is accused of killing Moxley in 1975.
Defense attorney Michael Sherman said he received a phone call from State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict yesterday morning saying the state no longer needed Skakel to submit to any tests.
"Whatever examination they made, the net result is that there is no DNA link to Michael Skakel," Sherman said.
The state tested the evidence at the Department of Public Safety Forensic Science Laboratory in Meriden. The nail clippings were tested to see whether there was evidence of Skakel's skin under Moxley's nails, said David San Pietro, a scientist at the Westchester County Forensic Lab who was recently hired by Sherman.
"This could be indicative that they couldn't get any DNA from the material in the first place, or that any DNA they were able to get was consistent with the victim and nobody else's," he said. "When there is indication of a homicide, it might be worth it to collect that kind of evidence on the chance there is skin tissue or blood as the result of a struggle."
San Pietro said he did not know to whom the hair belonged.
Sherman said he is upset the state withdrew its request for Skakel's DNA.
"In some ways, I'm disappointed," Sherman said. "We saw this as an opportunity for possible exoneration."
Members of the prosecution team have not commented about the nature of the evidence.
"We still have no comment about this case. We can't discuss it," said Frank Garr, the state's lead investigator. Benedict did not return a call seeking comment.
Deputy Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano said rules of conduct prohibit lawyers from talking about the test results.
Moxley was found dead on her family's Belle Haven lawn in 1975, and investigators linked the murder weapon, a golf club, to a set owned by the Skakel family. Both Moxley and Skakel were 15 at the time.
No one was charged in Moxley's slaying for more than 24 years, until Skakel, a nephew of Ethel Skakel Kennedy and the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, was arrested in January 2000 after an 18-month grand jury investigation. After numerous appeals and motions were exhausted by the prosecution and defense, including defense attempts to have Skakel tried in juvenile court, state Superior Court Judge John Kavanewsky set a trial date for early May. Skakel will be tried as an adult. Jury selection in the trial is scheduled to start on April 2.