New trial for Skakel based on ineffectiveness of counsel

The state’s going to appeal, but the 136 decision by Superior Court judge Thomas Bishop looks pretty damning to me. Essentially, Mickey Sherman’s* failure to raise a “third-party-culpability” defense by pointing the finger at Michael Skakel’s older brother Thomas, was inexplicable and inexcusable (start at p.35 of memorandum of decision and read down – Thomas was clearly a far more likely suspect than his younger brother)  as was Sherman’s failure to use readily available witnesses to destroy the state’s primary  piece of evidence, the testimony of a man who claimed that Michael had confessed to him when they were in rehab – both witnesses, long after the fact, denied any such confession and this judge found them”entirely credible.” Third, Sherman failed to introduce testimony from a witness who could have provided a convincing alibi for Michael, as that witness was with Michel at the time of the murder.

Nothing I read during the trial convinced me that the brother Thomas couldn’t have just as easily committed the murder as Michael; JudgeBishop strongly implies that Thomas did, in fact commit the crime.

*Mickey was paid $1.6 million for that defense, by the way, according to the decision.

29 Comments

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29 responses to “New trial for Skakel based on ineffectiveness of counsel

  1. Walt

    Dude –
    I ran into Mickey Sherman a few years ago in the Verizon store on High Ridge Road in Stamford. I told him a few “lawyer are scum” jokes, and he has no sense of humor. The short little stuck up bastard.

    Anyhows, he was married to Liz Wiehl, the Fox News contributor for a while. You know who she is? Not a bad looking lady, but she has a disturbingly looking penis nose. No shit. Check it out and let me know if you agree.
    Your Pal,
    Walt

  2. LAK

    LOL @ Walt!!

    If in fact Thomas did kill her & knows he did…what kind of brother are you to see your younger brother sit in jail?!

    What a messed up family!!

  3. Mickster

    CF,
    Just saw you on NBC commenting on this news!
    WTF

    • Really? I was coming out of Starbucks on the Ave when a news guy and a cameraman stopped me and asked for thoughts about the decision, which I learned about from them. Never noticed what station they were affiliated with – I figured it was Channel 12, but didn’t think to scan around looking for myself on tv – I wouldn’t have even if I had a tv. But that’s amusing.

  4. Mickster

    Honestly, Mickey is the one that should be put away. I’ve seen him fall out of more bars in NYC and here over the last few years… And he’s seems so articulate on Nancy Grace Show.
    According to RFK Jr tonight on CNN it was a black guy who now lives in Bridgeport. Really? I think Tommy should serve the rest of the sentence.

  5. AV

    Good seeing you on NBC!

  6. CosHarbour

    All very sad. Tommy & Micheal had a pretty mother who cruised around in a baby blue Lincoln. Unfortunately she died extremely prematurely. She was gone when the Holiday card family photo arrived. It had been shot in July,
    Christmas tree, etc.
    These boys, ran wild as youngin’s. I think that the death of their mother might have contributed to the crime.
    Will the truth ever come out?

  7. Walt

    Dude-
    You were on TV tonight? You attention seeking publicity whore.
    Did you flash us the Cos Cob gang sign? Where you put you head between your ass and kiss your dirty sun flower drop hole?
    Did you wear your hoodie with the FU slogan? Or your Red Sox cap flipped backwards? Did you give us the retard twisted finger hand sign?
    Or did you just act normal like your retard self?
    Send me a clip so I can comment.
    Your Pal,
    Walt

  8. Lorin Hart

    Chris tells me nothing…why was he on NBC?

  9. Y’know, Chris, I don’t usually read judicial decisions for fun, but I have to say that Judge Bishop’s ruling is a model of intelligence and clarity. Only a few bloopers (“Belle Haven Country Club”, “it’s” for “its”, etc.), but otherwise a riveting, well-organized piece of writing. His grasp of the facts is amazing. The whole thing reads almost like a detective novel. I am sure the Moxley family will be distressed by the ruling, but if they read it carefully I don’t see how they can help but agree with the judge’s findings. He treats Martha with sympathy and courtesy, and appears to want justice for her just as much as Dorthy does. The State should think long and hard about retrying this case. After all that Judge Bishop has put into the record, it will be an uphill slog all the way.

  10. Jane

    Where is Tommy Skakel these days?

  11. Rivman

    Those of us who were at GHS at the time always thought it was the older brother.

  12. Rivman, that was the consensus of everyone I knew back then.

  13. Jane

    I, too, was around at that time. The ENTIRE town felt he was the perp. So what happened, and where is he???????

    • Riverslide

      That doesn’t mean he was the perp! Get off the Michael Skakel bandwagon. Mark Fuhrman came in here and solved the case for us, and a jury confirmed it. (That should be the end of the issue, until the Skakels make their pitiful appeal at the pearly gates.)

  14. Riverslide

    What? It is not for the appeals court judge to substitute his judgement as to what witnesses might or might not have been credible for that of either the jury or the defense attorney.

    This ruling opens the door for every convict with a big budget to keep retrying his case until he gets a not-guilty verdict. All he has to do is keep going until he finds a judge who dives into the details months or years later and thinks he sees reasonable doubt, then the judge can say his finding of reasonable doubt is per se evidence of inadequate legal representation…

    This is like the Long Island judge who threw out a pre-nup on the grounds that the wife had already picked out her wedding dress when the pre-nup was presented for signature (or some such) and so she faced unbearable pressure to sign.

    I think the main problem is judges no longer have to be well-versed in the law and intellectually confident. They just have to fit the right racial and gender demographic. Hello Kagan and Sotomayor, etc.

    • I think you should read the decision, particularly the discussion beginning on p. 35, and then report back.

      • Riverslide

        Ok. I read it. I feel it points strongly to Michael. The likely scenario: Michael came upon the two of them doing much as Tommy describes and in a rage bashed her with the club, while Tommy, like most post-rocks-off guys everywhere, was happy just to take off. Tommy later lies about it, to avoid revealing the sordid details, and then, reveals only some of the details (not the Michael attack, in order to protect him and so he, Tommy, doesn’t look chivalrous for abandoning her.) It makes no sense that her pants would be lowered without a struggle, but that then she’d so piss off Tommy that he’d bash her head in, with what, a golf club he happened to have right with him? Who brings a gold club to a teenage sexual encounter?

        • “points strongly” does not necessarily reach the level of beyond reasonable doubt. A jury could have disagreed with your conclusion that the evidence pointed to Michael or even just concluded that, while it was more likely than not that one of the brothers did it, they couldn’t definitively rule out either- that would produce an acquittal.
          Judge Bishop decided that Sherman’s failure to put that evidence in front of the jury was, in effect, reversible error.

  15. Greenwich Gal

    Ok – Someone send the clip of CF on the news. And Bill, you send the legal document you found so fascinating in spite of the errors.

    As for my opinion on this – I have said it before here on FWIW – Any lawyer worth 10 cents, much less a million – could of and should of gotten the Skakel kid off. Sherman is a hack and worthless. First of all the Skakel kid was a messed up teen who had no idea what was happening and even if he was guilty – which he surely could never have been considered guilty- because THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE!!!!! Reasonable Doubt my friends!
    Yet, even if there was evidence asserting his guilt – his punishment should have been rendered as a MINOR not an adult.

    I wouldn’t hire Sherman to get me off on a traffic violation.

  16. towny

    CF
    Seeing the aggregate of the entire state case against M Skakel completely rebutted in the Bishop report:

    Does the State attempt a retrial?

    Release M Skakel?

    Attempt a case on T Skakel. Knowing that there is zero evidence that ties him or any of the known subjects to the actual act of bludgeoning ?

    • The state says it will appeal Judge Bishop’s decision (unlike earlier iterations of the case, this is a fresh version that started again at the Superior Court level, so there are two more levels of appeal available). Judge Bishop wrote what seems to me to be a carefully thought-out decision, rejecting most of Skakel’s claims but upholding the three most important ones; a higher court can disagree with Bishop’s legal conclusions- that’s what appellate courts are there for – but it seems like a solid decision to me (I’m hardly a legal scholar, obviously).
      No way they can try Thomas after all this time, especially because the defense could use the state’s effort to convict and imprison Michael and now, keep him there: if that’s not “reasonable doubt” for Thomas, nothing is.
      Does Michael get out on bail? There was a hearing yesterday (I write this Friday morning) but I don’t know the outcome. Stay tuned.

      • I agree with what you say, Chris. Judge Bishop’s decision will stand; and Thomas, whether innocent or guilty, is now beyond the reach of the law. The State has said it will vigorously oppose any bail motion until its appeal of Judge Bishop’s decision is decided (which could take quite a long while). My guess is that an impartial judge would probably grant Michael bail, but on strict conditions (to appease the State).

  17. Greenwich Gal

    The Greenwich PD messed this case up years ago and there is no way to put it back together again.

  18. Matt

    Why did Michael admit it to all of his “class mates” at that rehab facility in Maine years ago? That was pretty damning evidence if it could be verified. Innocent people do not brag about murders they did not commit.

    • Read the decision – one fellow junkie said that he’d heard the “confession”, two witnesses, readily discoverable by Skakel’s appeal attorneys but not by Sherman flat-out denied he said anything like that. One of the three legs upon which Judge Bishop based his finding of ineffective counsel was exactly this failure by Sherman to locate these witnesses and use their testimony.