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New Skakel trial likely to call expert to testify about Elan

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RFK Jr. could testify at Skakel trial
David Hennessey
Updated 11:51 pm, Sunday, April 7, 2013

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    In this Oct. 24, 2012 file photo, Michael Skakel listens during a parole hearing at McDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, Pool, File) Photo: Jessica Hill, Associated Press / POOL FR125654 AP

One of Michael Skakel's most vocal and powerful supporters and a member of the Kennedy family is one of dozens of witnesses who could testify at Skakel's upcoming habeas corpus trial, according to an updated witness list.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., one of more than 50 names disclosed last week on the updated list, has maintained since Skakel's 2002 murder conviction that Skakel, a Kennedy cousin, did not kill his Belle Haven neighbor Martha Moxley in 1975. Skakel is serving 20 years to life at McDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield for the crime.

The witness list -- which includes investigators in the case, members of the Skakel family and former suspects -- was filed in state Superior Court in the Rockville section of Vernon.

Also filed in that court last week was a disclosure by Hubert Santos, Skakel's attorney, indicating that Santos will call an expert to testify about Elan, the Maine school and treatment center Skakel attended in the late 1970s. Skakel allegedly confessed to Moxley's murder to classmates while at Elan. The expert is another component of Skakel's defense strategy in an attempt to prove Mickey Sherman, Skakel's former attorney, did not competently defend Skakel in 2002.

The habeas corpus trial, a legal proceeding through which a prisoner can challenge their imprisonment, is the latest attempt to win Skakel's freedom. The trial, scheduled to begin April 16 in Rockville, will focus on the ways in which Sherman allegedly fell short in his defense of the 52-year-old Skakel, thus depriving Skakel of his right to effective assistance of counsel. Skakel is the nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. attended Skakel's 2002 trial and testified on his cousin's behalf during a 2007 hearing.

He also published a lengthy piece in The Atlantic in 2003 titled "A Miscarriage of Justice," defending Skakel and arguing his indictment was the result of an inflamed media.

In addition to Kennedy, the latest witness list -- which has more than 10 additional names compared to a list disclosed earlier this year -- includes Skakel's brother Thomas, once a suspect in the murder, Mark Fuhrman, the former Los Angeles police detective who fingered Skakel as Moxley's killer in his 1998 book "Murder in Greenwich," Frank Garr, who worked as an investigator on the case, and Sherman.

The trial could also feature prior testimony by Tony Bryant, Adolph Hasbrouck and Burton Tinsley. Bryant implicated Hasbrouck and Tinsley in Moxley's murder in an interview with an investigator.

One of the new names disclosed in the updated witness list is Richard J. Ofshe, a California doctor and expert witness called to testify about the Elan School.

Ofshe was a member of a research group that won a Pulitzer Prize for an expose of the drug-rehabilitation program Synanon, which founded the tradition of "aggressive, residential treatment," in which Elan School partook, according to court documents.

Ofshe, who has qualified as an expert on interrogation methods in court proceedings on more than 350 occasions, has completed extensive work on the "extreme influence" organizations like Elan have on their students, according to court documents.

The Elan program was "psychologically intensive, brutalizing and physically assaultive," Ofshe states in a letter filed in court. That environment is one that jurors at the 2002 trial needed to better understand, he wrote.

"It [is] my opinion that the services of an expert on this sort of complex and unusual influence environment were necessary to educate jury members so that they could intelligently evaluate the significance of Michael Skakel's shift from repeated flat-out denials of his having any involvement in the death of Martha Moxley to his subsequent response that he might have killed Martha," but didn't have any memory of the crime, he wrote.

"Without fully appreciating the exceptionally coercive, highly organized and focused environment into which Mr. Skakel was placed it would have been extremely difficult if not impossible for a lay person to adequately comprehend the disorganized factual testimony about the nature of influence and control at Elan," he added.

Family members of Gregory Coleman, Skakel's classmate at Elan, are included on the latest witness list.

Skakel's defense filed a motion last week requesting that the court order attorney John Regan, of Rochester, N.Y., to testify about conversations he had with the now-dead Coleman, once his client.

Court documents indicate Skakel's defense believes Regan has information regarding Coleman's credibility, but that a court order is required to make Regan testify because of attorney-client privilege.

The period from April 16 to April 26 has been reserved for the trial in state Superior Court in Rockville.; 203-625-4428


More Information
Potential witnesses for hearing in Michael Skakel case

Tony Bryant (prior testimony)
Barbara Bryant (prior testimony)
Elizabeth Coleman
Mary Coleman
Vito Collucci (prior testimony and live testimony)
Peter Coomaraswamy
Esme Dick
James Dowdle
Kevin Edwards
Richard Emanuel
Wright Ferguson
Rick Fisher
Michael Fitzpatrick
Mark Fuhrman
Frank Garr (prior testimony and live testimony)
Cliff Grubin (prior testimony)
David Grudberg
Adolph Hasbrouck (prior testimony)
Margie Walker Hauer
Richard Hoffman (prior testimony and live testimony)
Everette James (prior testimony)
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (prior testimony and live testimony)
Len Levitt (prior testimony)
Michael Meredith (prior testimony)
Crawford Mills (deceased, prior testimony)
Charles Morganti, Jr. (prior testimony)
James Murphy
Ronald Murphy
Richard J. Ofshe
Dennis Ossorio
Rick Pagnani
Graham Pettingill
John Regan
Betsy Reis
Al Robbins
Stephen Seeger
Charles Seigan (prior testimony and live testimony)
Michael Sherman (prior testimony and live testimony)
David Skakel (prior testimony)
John Skakel (prior testimony)
Julie Skakel (prior testimony)
Rushton Skakel Jr. (prior testimony)
Stephen Skakel (prior testimony)
Thomas Skakel
John Simpson (prior testimony)
Jack Solomon
Burton Tinsley (prior testimony)
Michael Udvardy (prior testimony and live testimony)
Neal Walker
Susan Wandzilak
Carl Wold (prior testimony)

Mickey Sherman put a cop on the jury. That's evidence of inadequate consul.

I notice this Santos guy was smart enough to keep Elan people off the witness list and out of the trial for this long

If they're trying to pass off Tony Bryant again, I predict a complete fail

Santos did the first and most important things right, he kept this out of the media and he kept Elan people out of it

I wonder why there isn't a stste witness list?

Che Gookin:
Probably wants to keep the witnesses from being harassed by Elan alumni.  Don't be going all rage cannon on me, yall know its true..

Btw.. protip: Someone has been sent a fax about me to HEAL. I traced it back to the sender and I'm pretty sure I narrowed it down to a short list of one as to who exactly sent the fax about me and who most likely is sending the faxes about art and danny.

It's not an elan survivor.

You guys are getting played by a sorry assed sociopath who is laughing his ass off at you.

I won't say who it is, but again... it's not an elan survivor.

Please ignore these faxes and please try to fix the damage in your community.

Well said
You are right
It's no secret who this person is
But this whole thing begins and ends with Sharon and Mark
I have a part in it.
I see an end to it as well


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