1st alternate chosen for Skakel trial
By Kevin McCallum - Stamford Advocate
NORWALK - A Weston resident whose father is a retired Boston police officer was chosen yesterday as the first alternate juror in the murder trial of Michael Skakel, leaving just three alternates to go before the panel is complete.
Just like the 12 regular jurors selected, the four alternate jurors will hear all the evidence presented during the trial at state Superior Court in Norwalk, which begins May 7.
The difference is the alternate jurors will not deliberate or decide Skakel's fate unless a regular juror cannot complete his or her duties, Superior Court Judge John Kavanewsky Jr. said.
Skakel, 41, has been charged with the 1975 murder of his Belle Haven neighbor, Martha Moxley. Both were 15 at the time Moxley was bludgeoned to death with a six-iron owned by the Skakel family.
The first alternate juror, who appeared to be in his 40s, graduated from New Mexico State University with a degree in economics, and for years worked for a company that produced training videos for the military, he said.
He is now in the real estate industry, and has paid little attention to media accounts of the case, he told State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict.
The man told Benedict he could convict Skakel if prosecutors proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt, and said he would not hold them to a higher standard of "absolute certainty." He also said he has no problem with the case being 27 years old, or with the fact that Skakel is being tried as an adult for a crime he allegedly committed when he was 15.
Michael Sherman, Skakel's lead defense attorney, seemed concerned about the man's father being a police officer.
"You don't think you would lean toward the prosecution's side of the case because your father was a law enforcement officer?" Sherman asked.
The man said he would not. His father, who retired about 10 years ago, worked in narcotics and vice, and rarely talked about his work, the man said.
While he had the time to serve on the jury, the man said he was not eager to do so.
"You're not volunteering, but you're not weaseling out of it either?" Sherman asked, and the man agreed.
The man's selection was nearly derailed, however, when he was asked about media coverage of the case and he answered that he had read a story in The New York Times yesterday about the 12th regular juror being selected.
After the man was led to a waiting room, Benedict pointed out to Kavanewsky that the man appeared to have violated the judge's instructions not to read any press accounts of the case.
Kavanewsky told the attorney he would strongly admonish the man not to do so in the future, after which both sides accepted him.
The man joins six men and six women on the jury, all of whom are white professionals, most with college degrees.
Sherman has shown he is not shy about accepting jurors with ties to the law enforcement community. He has already accepted a Darien police officer and a Greenwich nurse whose daughter is a prosecutor.
After court, Sherman explained why he didn't hire a jury consultant in the case.
"They'd have shot me," Sherman quipped. "It would have been a waste of money."