Lawyer: Skakel Is Unfit To Testify
By KAREN TESTA, The Associated Press

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Rushton Skakel barks and growls, steals food off people's plates in restaurants and has been known to rub bellies and noses with perfect strangers.

Still, prosecutors in Connecticut believe the 74-year-old brother-in-law of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy may have some information about the 1975 slaying of a 15-year-old girl. Skakel's sons are suspects.

His attorney argued Wednesday that Skakel has brain damage and Alzheimer's-like dementia, making him mentally unfit to be questioned. The lawyer asked a state appeals court to throw out a judge's order compelling Skakel to travel to Connecticut to testify.

``This man is totally out of control. He's in diapers and he can't carry on a conversation with anyone,'' attorney Richard Lubin told the three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal. ``He is entitled not to be dragged to Connecticut when he's incompetent and incontinent.''

Skakel was not in court. The judges did not indicate when they would rule.

Skakel's sons, Michael and Thomas, have been identified as suspects in the slaying of Martha Moxley, who was bludgeoned with a golf club on her family's Greenwich, Conn., estate. Michael, who was 15 at the time, and Thomas, then 17, have denied any involvement.

The 6-iron used in the slaying was matched to a set of clubs owned by the Skakel family, and the elder Skakel told authorities 20 years ago that the club came from his house.

Prosecutors argued that Skakel may know more than he has said. A vague affidavit by an investigator suggests Skakel might have overheard one of his sons discussing the death.

He may not be as crazy as his attorney would like the court to think, said James Carney, a Florida assistant attorney general. He pointed out that Skakel sat calmly through a four-hour hearing on his mental competency last October.

However, Lubin noted Skakel did give a jovial belly-bump to a bailiff during a break in the proceedings.

The investigation into Martha's slaying was revived a year ago when a one-man grand jury was appointed and two books were published, including one by former Los Angeles Detective Mark Fuhrman. The grand jury investigation is still going on.

AP-NY-06-09-99 1655EDT
Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.