(CN) – Finding that the Kennedy cousin had inadequate legal counsel, Connecticut’s highest court granted Michael Skakel a new trial on Friday over accusations that he murdered a teenage neighbor in 1975.
“This has been a long road for Michael, and we are grateful to the court for this ruling today,” Skakel’s attorney Hubert Santos said in a statement.
Skakel and Martha Moxley had both been 15 years old when she was found bludgeoned with a golf club in their wealthy enclave of Greenwich.
Convicted of the crime in 2002, Skakel’s case snaked through appellate courts for more than a decade and garnered attention because of the convicted man’s relationship to one of America’s most powerful political dynasties.
The nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, Skakel had his innocence defended by another scion of the family. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. released a book two years ago arguing that his cousin is innocent.
After rejecting Skakel’s appeal in 2016, the Connecticut Supreme Court agreed to reconsider the case en banc later that year.
On Friday, the seven-judge panel found by a 4-3 margin that Skakel’s trial attorney, Michael Sherman, failed to present a key alibi witness for the Kennedy cousin.
“The importance of the petitioner’s alibi defense is underscored by how vigorously the state sought to discredit it,” Judge Richard Palmer wrote for the majority. “The state’s attorney claimed that it had been concocted by the Skakel family and founded on the perjurious testimony of the petitioner’s alibi witnesses.”
Connecticut’s Division of Criminal Justice did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.