VERNON, Conn. (AP) — A murder victim’s friend testified Friday she told Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel’s attorney before his trial that she had heard two other men were responsible for the killing, but he told her that account didn’t appear credible.
Marjorie Walker Hauer said she told lawyer Michael Sherman about Gitano “Tony” Bryant’s claim that two other men had killed 15-year-old Martha Moxley in 1975. Skakel’s current attorneys have accused Sherman of ignoring the claim as they appeal Skakel’s conviction, saying he was deprived of his right to effective legal representation.
Skakel earlier sought a new trial based on Bryant’s claim, but a judge also rejected it as not credible.
Skakel is serving 20 years to life in prison for Moxley’s golf club bludgeoning when they were neighbors in Greenwich. He is the 52-year-old nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel.
Hauer said Sherman told her the claim probably didn’t deserve further investigation. Asked his response, she said, “He was aware of the story and it didn’t seem credible.”
Skakel’s current attorney also argues Sherman was distracted by the limelight surrounded the high-profile case and failed to prepare.
Sherman’s private investigator for the trial, Vito Colluci Jr., took the stand and said Sherman was a good attorney who became consumed by celebrity. Asked if he noticed a change in Sherman, Colucci said, “Can I say Hollywood?”
“I think that took full charge of his life at that point,” Colucci said.
When a prosecutor questioned witnesses during the trial, Sherman a few times would look back to see television reporters he knew, Colucci said.
Sherman was constantly on the phone with the news media, Collucci said. He said Sherman did not follow up on promising leads or direct him to keep trying to find witnesses. After the trial, investigators working on Skakel’s behalf found a few witnesses who rejected a claim by a star witness that Skakel confessed to the crime.
Sherman says he did all he could to prevent Skakel’s conviction and made the case a top priority. He’s touted his cross examinations of key witnesses.