First Skakel juror picked bows out
By Lindsay Faber - Greenwich Time

NORWALK -- On the same day one juror chosen for the Michael Skakel murder trial was excused from service, saying his fledgling business would be harmed by his absence, lawyers for both sides approved a new juror to take his place.

The new juror, the fifth seated in the first week of jury selection, is a Stamford-based corporate lawyer who lives in Darien with his wife and two children. He said he is about the same age as Skakel, the 41-year-old former Belle Haven resident on trial for the 1975 murder of his teenage neighbor Martha Moxley. Skakel and Moxley were 15 at the time of her death.

The corporate attorney is in some ways as much a surprise as the Darien police officer selected Thursday. Skakel's lawyer, Michael Sherman, said he knows defense attorneys often shy away from placing police officers and lawyers on juries because they have a comprehensive knowledge of the criminal justice system and tend to control deliberations.

"It's just not a full day unless you break a rule," Sherman joked outside the courtroom, adding that he didn't feel the lawyer would play his professional role in the courtroom.

Also, a prospective juror who lives and works in Greenwich was the first in four days to tell the court he had already determined that Skakel was guilty.

"Do you have any opinions as to who committed the crime?" Sherman asked the man.

"The defendant probably committed the crime," answered the man, who was rejected for the jury. "People always make comments about it. How can anybody hear something and be told to strike it from your memory?"

Skakel did not visibly react to the man's comments.

Early in the day, the first juror picked was dismissed after calling the court clerk to express his unhappiness with serving on a trial expected to last five weeks. The man, an investment officer who recently started his own company, said he would be too distracted by his personal affairs to give Skakel a fair trial.

"I haven't slept for the past couple of nights. I've got two little kids at home. I've got this job. I don't think I could give it my best effort," he said in court yesterday.

Sherman, State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict and Superior Court Judge John Kavanewsky Jr. did not hesitate to let him go.

"There are enough jurors in this county that will be very appropriate without having to bring jurors against their will," Sherman said.

At the end of the week, the jury panel consists of a corporate lawyer, a police officer, an administrative assistant, a high school teacher and a marketing executive. Two are male and three are female.

Among those rejected yesterday was a Greenwich woman who had hired Sherman to represent her son in a criminal case about 15 years ago and a man who said he would hold the state to a higher burden of proof than required by law and demand "bulletproof" evidence from prosecutors.

Skakel is accused of bludgeoning Martha Moxley to death with a golf club in their Greenwich neighborhood. Skakel, the nephew of Ethel Kennedy, could face life in prison if convicted.

Lawyers will need to pick 12 jurors and four alternates for the case. Jury selection is expected to last about four weeks.

The trial begins May 7. If convicted, Skakel could face life in prison.



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