Moxley family mulls civil suit
By Cameron D. Martin - Greenwich Time
The family of Martha Moxley will consider civil action against Michael Skakel if the criminal case of the alleged murderer is not transferred from juvenile to adult court, the victim's mother said yesterday.
Dorthy Moxley said she remains optimistic that Juvenile Matters Judge Maureen Dennis will rule that Skakel, 40, should be tried as an adult for the bludgeoning death of her daughter in 1975, when both she and the accused were 15 years old. Dennis' decision could come as early as today.
State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict last week said he, too, remains confident Dennis will move the case, but said that he may drop it unless it is transferred to adult court. If the case is kept in juvenile court, Benedict said Skakel would face such an insignificant penalty that it may not be worth the trauma to the victim's family.
"It's something we have to consider," Benedict said Friday. "If we have no viable remedy, does it make sense to continue?"
Though confident the state will have the opportunity to present a criminal case against Skakel in an adult court, Dorthy Moxley said the ultimate venue - adult, juvenile or civil court - will not affect her family's resolve.
"If it stays in juvenile court, there's always the possibility of a civil suit," Moxley said. "It's something I don't want to pursue, necessarily, but I may if it comes down to it.
"I'm not going to get this far and just drop it, that's for sure."
Dennis has not indicated when she would rule on the court in which Skakel would be tried, and it is unclear whether she has a deadline. Benedict said he believes Dennis has to make her ruling by today, or within 120 days of a reasonable cause hearing held in June. Stamford trial court administrator Lorraine Murphy said Dennis has an additional 120 days following a hearing held last Friday in Stamford.
That hearing regarded a probation report prepared by Joseph Paquin, the supervising probation officer for Juvenile Matters in the Stamford-Norwalk Judicial District. Normally, probation reports for the purpose of deciding trial venue would address the likelihood that juvenile defendants would commit future crimes, and whether suitable facilities are available for their rehabilitation.
Paquin testified that his report did not even address the possibility of Skakel re-offending again because his office had never before had to conduct such a study for a 40-year-old defendant.
Defense attorney Michael Sherman said later in the hearing that the probation report was inadequate for not having explored out-of-state facilities for his client, who had special needs by virtue of his being an adult.
"It may sound silly, but Mr. Skakel is a juvenile with special needs," Sherman said. "It's not his fault this case has taken 25 years."
Dennis ordered the probation report on Aug. 17, upon ruling the prosecution had proved during a preliminary hearing that there was "reasonable cause" to believe Skakel murdered Moxley on Oct. 30, 1975. In her ruling, Dennis said she found credible the testimony of witnesses who claimed Skakel had confessed to them he had murdered Moxley with a golf club.