Who killed Martha Moxley?
▶ Watch Video: Sneak peek: The Diary of Martha Moxley
[This story previously aired on November 6, 2021. It was updated on June 4, 2022.]
Since 1975, the tony neighborhood of Belle Haven, in Greenwich, Connecticut has been haunted by the death of Martha Moxley, a 15-year-old girl who was bludgeoned with a golf club.
What happened to Moxley has been a mystery that has gripped Belle Haven and the nation, aided by the fact that Moxley spent her last night alive with young members of the Skakel family, cousins of the Kennedys. In 2000, Michael Skakel was charged with her murder. He was convicted in 2002 and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. After spending more than a decade in prison for the murder, in 2013 a judge granted Skakel a new trial, saying his first attorney failed to adequately represent him. In 2018, the Connecticut Supreme Court vacated his murder conviction and ordered a new trial. But in 2020, prosecutors said they would not retry him.
Now, for the first time since Martha Moxley was murdered, her childhood friends Richard Burns and Tori Holland are speaking together to “48 Hours” correspondent Erin Moriarty.
“This little girl … this cute, little amazing girl was murdered brutally by somebody. And I think it was somebody in that neighborhood,” says Burns.
Holland and Burns share their thoughts on the Skakel family, who have been at the heart of the investigation since the start. Martha Moxley wrote about socializing with the Skakel brothers, Michael and Tommy, in her diary.
But Skakel cousin Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., says, “The evidence is much stronger in suggesting that other people may have committed the crime.”
Should authorities have looked elsewhere?
A BRUTAL MURDER
Tori Holland and Richard Burns have waited decades to speak publicly about the event that forever marked their lives: the death of their friend Martha Moxley.
Richard Burns: … after she was — was murdered … everything had changed.
Tori Holland: You have no sense of peace. … You’ve — you’ve lost it all.
Both Tori and Martha were just 15 years old living in Belle Haven, Connecticut.
Tori Holland: My backyard sort of melded into her front yard.
Martha’s family had moved to the neighborhood a year earlier from California – and Martha wasted no time becoming the “It Girl.”
Tori Holland: She was not a wallflower … she wanted to meet everybody.
Richard Burns: But everybody in Greenwich, you know, was very kind of reserved North-Eastern personalities. …she was very um — an extrovert.
Tori Holland: She was the California girl of all of us. … she was a joy to be around.
Richard Burns: You know, how can you kill someone like that?
Erin Moriarty: It still gets to you.
Richard Burns: Yeah.
It was the night before Halloween, October 30, 1975, also known as Mischief Night.
Erin Moriarty: What is Mischief Night?
Richard Burns: … basically you would throw toilet paper into the trees –
Tori Holland: Harmless fun.
Martha headed across the street to hang out with her very wealthy neighbors, the Skakel family. The Skakels were cousins of the Kennedys. Rushton Skakel’s sister Ethel had married Robert Kennedy in 1950. Rushton had inherited a fortune from the family’s mining company.
Richard Burns: They were a very famous family.
Richard Burns: They … just had a lot more attitude about, you know, they could do anything.
Martha was friendly with the seven Skakel kids, spending time mostly with Michael who was also 15, and his older brother, 17-year-old Tommy. On Mischief Night, Martha and two other friends met Michael at the Skakel house around 9 p.m. They all piled into a Lincoln parked in the driveway.
Len Levitt: Michael and Martha are in the front seat of the Skakel car …
Reporter Len Levitt, now deceased, was interviewed in 2003. He spent more than 30 years investigating the night of Martha’s death.
Len Levitt (2003): Tommy comes and joins them so the three of them are sitting in the front seat. Martha’s in the middle between Tommy and Michael. They’re listening to music.
They were in the Lincoln until around 9:30 p.m., when two other Skakel brothers said they needed the car so they could drive their cousin, Jimmy Terrien, to his house to watch the U.S. premiere of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” Michael told police he left with his brothers and cousin, while Martha and her friends stayed behind with Tommy.
Len Levitt (2003): What goes on between Martha and Tommy then is sort of playful, pushing back and forth with sexual overtones. At one point Tommy pushes Martha down and falls on top of her. … And the friends are so embarrassed… that … they leave and go home, leaving Martha with Tommy. … Martha never gets home.
Martha’s mother Dorthy spoke with “48 Hours” in 2000. And remembered that around 1 a.m. the next morning, she began calling Martha’s friends and alerted the police.
Dorthy Moxley: I was getting more worried and more worried. I mean it just was not like her.
When the sun came up and Martha still hadn’t returned home, Dorthy walked over to the Skakel house. Michael answered the door.
Dorthy Moxley : “I’m Dorthy Moxley and I live across the street and I’m looking for my daughter Martha. Do you know if Martha is here?” No, Martha was not there….and he looked, he didn’t look healthy. He looked – well, I actually think he looked hungover.
Hours passed. It was now almost noon on Halloween. Tori was on her way to join the search when another friend discovered Martha’s body under a tree towards the back of the Moxley property.
Tori Holland: … and I could see Mrs. Moxley at the front door and she’s going [waves hands] she didn’t want me to come any further. … But I could see the devastation of Mrs. Moxley’s.
Steve Carroll was among the first investigators from the Greenwich Police Department to walk up to Martha’s body.
Steve Carroll: It was a maniacal attack that should have stopped … but didn’t.
When Carroll spoke with “48 Hours” in 2000, he was still shaken by what he had seen.
Steve Carroll: We didn’t even know what color hair she had because it was all blood red … and all of the blows or damage were all to her head. … and then we could see a path that she had been dragged down in the high grass … down to where her final resting place which was under the pine tree.
Investigators traced the trail of blood to the Moxley driveway.
Steve Carroll : … she had been bludgeoned right near the driveway because there was a huge pool of blood.
There they discovered a piece of the murder weapon: the shaft of a golf club. Former Hartford Courant reporter and “48 Hours” consultant Lynne Tuohy.
Lynne Tuohy: It was a Toney Penna 6-iron golf club. And she was struck so violently that the shaft of the golf club shattered. And one portion of the shaft … was driven through her neck.
Just a few hours later, while canvassing the Skakel property, police discovered a matching golf club that came from the same set as the 6-iron that was used to kill Martha.
Lynne Tuohy: It came from a set owned by Anne Skakel, Michael’s and Tommy’s late mother.
Police began taking a hard look at the Skakels and they would find what sounded like tantalizing clues left by Martha herself in her diary.
Tori Holland: I was still in shock that she was gone but that this had to be a … beautiful tribute to her, to send her off.
A few days after Martha’s murder, on November 4, 1975, about 500 people gathered for her funeral. While family and friends mourned the teenager, investigators were learning more about Martha’s relationship with Michael and Tommy Skakel.
Erin Moriarty: Do you remember either of the Skakels having a crush on Martha?
Richard Burns: Well, it would be hard not to … I know I did.
Martha’s friends told police that Tommy wanted to date her, but his advances may not have always been welcomed. On September 12, Martha wrote in her diary about going for ice cream with Michael and Tommy:
“Went driving in Tom’s car … I was practically sitting on Tom’s lap … He kept putting his hand on my knee.”
And on October 4, a little over three weeks before her murder, Martha wrote:
“I went to a party! … Tom S. Was being an ass. At the dance he kept putting his arms around me … making moves.”
Tori Holland: I did not know she was spending the time that she was spending with them. … I did not hang around with them. They scared me a little bit.
Erin Moriarty: Why? What do you mean?
Tori Holland: Well, they’re … because they were very rambunctious.
Two years earlier, the seven Skakel siblings lost their mom Anne to cancer. Their father Rushton struggled to parent them. On the night of Martha’s death, he was away on a hunting trip.
Tori Holland: Their father traveled quite a bit. … They were allowed to do whatever they’d like.
Richard Burns: They definitely got into a lot of trouble. … there was a lot of partying going on in that house.
Erin Moriarty: I read that Michael Skakel … had a drinking problem at age 13. Really?
Richard Burns: I would say that’s true.
And that drinking may have created conflict with Martha. In her diary, the month before her death, Martha wrote:
“Michael was so totally out of it that he was being a real ass—-. He kept telling me that I was leading Tom on … Michael jumps to conclusions. … I really have to stop going over there.”
Lynne Tuohy: Tommy and Michael were both known to have very explosive tempers. … the two of them were fierce rivals for anything you know, from sports to affection. A girl’s attention.
Erin Moriarty: Martha’s?
Lynne Tuohy: Possibly.
It was daylight when Martha’s body was found, but based on reports of neighborhood dogs barking the night before, investigators believed that Martha was killed sometime between 9:30 and 10 p.m., around the time she was thought to be at the Skakels. Remember, Michael told police that around 9:30 p.m., he had left to go to his cousin Jimmy Terrien’s home and Martha had stayed behind with Tommy.
Len Levitt (2003): Tommy’s story is that he last sees her at 9:30 … and he goes inside home to write a paper on Abraham Lincoln. The police later find out that no teacher at Tommy’s school ever assigned this paper.
Levitt says police initially considered Tommy a strong suspect, but it turns out that even if Tommy lied about writing that paper, he had an alibi witness.
Len Levitt (2003): Tommy is seen again shortly after 10 o’clock with Ken Littleton.
Ken Littleton was a new tutor who had just moved into the Skakel house that very day. He told police that Tommy was watching TV with him around 10 p.m. He noticed nothing unusual about Tommy, and that’s significant because Martha had been murdered violently.
Len Levitt (2003): How does Tommy do this? How does Tommy manage to beat her to death, move her body, clean himself up, compose himself so that Ken Littleton says of Tommy, I notice nothing about him out of the ordinary?
No arrests were made. Months passed by and with advice from Tommy’s lawyer, Rushton Skakel stopped cooperating with police. He also fired Ken Littleton whose life unraveled shortly after.
Lynne Tuohy: He moved to Nantucket, he drank heavily, did drugs … committed crimes of petty larceny.
Investigators honed in on the Skakel tutor, speculating that his downfall could be rooted in his involvement in Martha’s murder. But there were problems with that theory.
Len Levitt (2003): He’s got no motive to kill Martha. He never knew Martha. The manner in which Martha was killed … indicates that it was somebody who had a relationship with Martha.
Authorities found no evidence to prove Littleton was involved. Years went by, and Martha’s murder became a cold case.
Lynne Tuohy: There were no more leads to pursue. There was no new evidence.
In 1991, the trial of another Kennedy cousin – William Kennedy Smith – who was charged with rape in Florida, but acquitted, would open a new chapter in the Moxley case.
Len Levitt (2003): There’s an allegation, which is false, that William Kennedy Smith was at the Skakel house the night of the murder.
That unfounded rumor and persistent press coverage kept the heat on the Greenwich Police Department and prompted them to reopen the investigation.
Len Levitt (2003): And now they announce a reward and a hotline.
This time, in an effort to clear his family name, Rushton Skakel hired his own team of investigators. Their findings became known as The Sutton Report. But the effort backfired because that report, for the first time, pointed a finger at another of Rushton’s sons — Michael Skakel.
Len Levitt (2003): Michael … lied to the police.
Michael told police that after watching “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” at his cousin Jimmy Terrien’s house, he came home around 11:30 p.m. and went straight to bed, but he told his dad’s investigators another story:
MICHAEL SKAKEL (audio recording): And I remember thinking, oh my God, if I tell anybody that I was out that night, they’re going to say I did it.
For 20 years, investigators seemed stymied in their effort to find Martha’s killer, but all that changed in 1995 when someone leaked the Sutton Report to the press.
Lynne Tuohy: It … was never supposed to see the light of day.
The report was an eye-opener. Tommy admitted to his father’s investigators that all those years ago, in 1975, he had lied to the police.
Lynne Tuohy: Tommy told the Sutton investigators that he did not go into his house at 9:30, he stayed outside … making out with Martha for 20 minutes … mutual petting. A semi-sexual encounter … And suddenly casts himself as being, most likely the last person to see her alive.
Erin Moriarty: And not just the last person to see her alive, but who’s with her at the time that investigators believe she may have been killed.
Lynne Tuohy: Correct.
Erin Moriarty: But it wasn’t just Tommy who changed his story, was it?
Lynne Tuohy: No, Michael also changed his story.
Remember, Michael told police that after watching “Monty Python” at his cousin’s house, he came back home around 1130 p.m. and went straight to bed.
Len Levitt (2003): The report was devastating to the Skakel family.
But then he described a very different scenario to those private investigators.
Len Levitt (2003): He’s feeling horny. Around midnight, he’s drunk … and he goes out and he climbs the tree outside Martha’s window … and he masturbates in the tree.
In fact, in 1997, Michael even made a tape recording of that story while working on a book proposal for a tell-all autobiography.
MICHAEL SKAKEL (audio recording): I pulled my pants down, I masturbated for 30 seconds in the tree … and I remember thinking, “Oh, my God. I hope to God nobody saw me j—– off.” … then I woke up to Mrs. Moxley saying, “Michael have — have you seen Martha?” … I was like, “Oh my God, did they see me last night?”
Reports had also begun to circulate that Michael had actually confessed to Martha’s murder. It was said to have happened while he was a student at Elan, a reform school that his father sent him to after a drunken driving incident when he was 17.
One former Elan student, Gregory Coleman, recounted to a local news reporter what he says Michael told him back then.
GREGORY COLEMAN (news report): The first words he ever said to me was, “I’m going to get away with murder. I’m a Kennedy.”
Coleman says Michael detailed what he did to Martha that night.
GREGORY COLEMAN (news report): He had made advances towards her and she rejected his advances and quote, unquote, that he drove her skull in with a golf club.
After hearing from Coleman and other former Elan students, state’s attorney Jonathan Benedict convened an unusual and rarely used one-person grand jury to look at all the evidence and all the suspects in the case.
After 18 months and more than 40 witnesses, the grand jury indicted Michael Skakel for murder 24 years after Martha’s death. Michael was 41 years old when his trial began.
Erin Moriarty: And how big a story was that?
Lynne Tuohy: It was huge. The scene outside was … circus-like.
Lynne Tuohy: … all the national media was there. They had tents. They had lights.
MICKEY SHERMAN [to reporters outside courthouse]: Michael’s defense and his only defense is that he did not commit this crime.
Michael Skakel was being represented by a well-known local defense attorney: Mickey Sherman.
Lynne Tuohy: As charismatic as they come. Mickey is no amateur when it comes to television.
Erin Moriarty: What’s the motive for Michael Skakel killing Martha Moxley?
Lynne Tuohy: The only motive, really, is jealous rage over the attention she was showing Tommy Skakel.
In fact, in that same book proposal for his autobiography, Michael wrote: “I wanted her to be my girlfriend.”
Dorthy Moxley (2000): I think Martha just rebuffed him. … She could have been flirting with Tommy, and maybe that made him angry.
At trial, prosecutor Jonathan Benedict began with discrediting Michael’s alibi that he had gone for that ride to his cousin’s house around the time of Martha’s murder. Prosecutors called Skakel family friend Andrea Shakespeare, who had been at the Skakel house that night.
Jonathan Benedict: Andrea Shakespeare is one of the witnesses … who was certain that Mister Skakel never took that alibi ride.
Benedict put holes in Michael’s alibi, but he later said Michael himself provided the most damaging evidence.
Jonathan Benedict: The truth of the matter is that Michael Skakel couldn’t keep his mouth shut for a quarter of a century.
Benedict is referring to all those admissions Michael allegedly made to killing Martha, like the one to Elan classmate Gregory Coleman. Although Coleman had died from a drug overdose before the trial began, his testimony from an earlier hearing was read to the jury. That infuriated Michael’s brother, Stephen.
Stephen Skakel (2003): Greg Coleman … was high on heroin, on methadone. … He was doing 20 to 25 bags of heroin a day.
It turns out that before trial, Coleman admitted to Michael’s attorney that he was actually high on drugs when he testified before the grand jury. But the state put on nine other witnesses who told the jury that Michael implied he had killed Martha.
And then of course there was Michael’s own words from that tell-all book proposal. In closing arguments, Prosecutor Benedict played an edited excerpt for the jurors:
MICHAEL SKAKEL (audio recording): “… oh, my God, did they see me last night?” … and I remember just having a feeling of panic.
Lynne Tuohy: I think it very well may have been the lynchpin.
Erin Moriarty: What do you mean by that?
Lynne Tuohy: Driving the nail into the coffin of Michael Skakel, in terms of a guilty verdict.
It took the jury four days. Michael Skakel was convicted for Martha’s murder. His sentence: 20 years to life.
Robert Kennedy Jr. (2003): I know Michael Skakel and I know he didn’t commit the crime.
A few months after trial, Michael Skakel’s cousin, Robert Kennedy Jr., accused the prosecutor of deliberately misrepresenting Michael’s words in that closing argument.
Robert Kennedy Jr: His tape-recorded words were used out of context by the prosecutor to imply that he was confessing to the crime.
MICHAEL SKAKEL (audio recording): I was like, “oh my God, did they see me last night?”
Because here’s what the prosecutor didn’t play in court:
MICHAEL SKAKEL (audio recording): And I remember thinking, “oh, my God. I hope to God nobody saw me j—– off.”
Correspondent Lesley Stahl asked Benedict about it.
Lesley Stahl: In hearing this myself, without the — the preamble about masturbating … to anybody is that he’s actually talking about murdering her. And — and isn’t that really taking him out of context?
Jonathan Benedict: No, I don’t think so. I think it’s a fair —
Lesley Stahl: If I did this on “48 Hours” I’d be fired.
Jonathan Benedict: I think it’s a fair suggestion based upon the evidence of the case.
Robert Kennedy Jr.: It appeared to anybody who looked at it that he was confessing- that he was saying that he was panicked because he had committed this crime. And — and that was really the segment that everybody agrees ended up convicting Michael Skakel.
And Robert Kennedy was determined to exonerate his cousin. Eight months after Michael Skakel was sent off to prison, Kennedy got a tip he believed would reveal Martha’s real killers.
TONY BRYANT’S ACCOUNT
To Robert Kennedy Jr., it was the break he had been hoping for. Kennedy got a tip that a former classmate of Michael Skakel, a man named Tony Bryant, was claiming he knew the identity of Martha Moxley’s killers. So, Kennedy and Michael’s attorneys tracked Bryant down in Florida.
Robert Kennedy Jr. (2020): Tony Bryant has made a full confession of his involvement in that crime.
In 2003, Tony Bryant was videotaped by Michael Skakel’s team.
TONY BRYANT: Well, that night … We decided to go up to Greenwich and hang out …
He told them on the night of the murder, he had taken two friends – Adolf Hasbrouck, also known as Al, and Burton Tinsley—-to Belle Haven.
VITO COLUCCI: So, do you believe that they killed her?
TONY BRYANT: There is no doubt in my mind that they were involved.
Bryant knew the two teens from New York and told Skakel’s investigators that Hasbrouck had become obsessed with Martha.
TONY BRYANT: I mean, he loved her beautiful blonde hair.
Bryant said that Hasbrouck met Martha during previous trips to Belle Haven; at a street fair and again at a dance.
TONY BRYANT: I’m trying to remember at one of the mixers … and he got jealous of other guys coming up to her and talking to her.
Bryant claims Hasbrouck complained to him, saying:
TONY BRYANT: “I don’t understand why she is spending her time with those guys when she could be with me.”
On the night of the murder, Bryant says he was with Hasbrouck and Tinsley when they all picked up golf clubs from the Skakel backyard. He claims that either Hasbrouck or Tinsley bragged about wanting to hurt someone.
TONY BRYANT: “I’ve got my caveman club —
VITO COLUCCI: Right.
TONY BRYANT: — and I’m going to go grab somebody and pull them by the hair and do what cavemans do.”
Bryant says he wanted no part of it, so he left Belle Haven.
VITO COLUCCI: And then right after the murder, when you met up with both Adolph and Burt, they told you, we got — we did it.
TONY BRYANT: “We did it. We achieved our fantasy.”
Bryant stated that while his friends never mentioned Martha Moxley by name …
TONY BRYANT: I knew who they were implying. It was — it was so obvious because, I mean, the next day, it was all over. I mean, it was everywhere.
Armed with Tony Bryant’s story, in 2005, Michael Skakel’s attorneys filed an appeal asking for a new trial.
HUBERT SANTOS | Michael Skakel’s attorney: Your Honor, the petition for new trial that we’ve filed on behalf of Michael Skakel claims newly discovered evidence … which involves the allegations concerning Tony Bryant.
But at a hearing to present the new evidence, Bryant refused to testify under oath.
Robert Kennedy Jr. (2020): Well, of course, he is not going to do that because he admits that he brought the murderers to Greenwich. … because he could be charged with that crime.
Kennedy says Bryant wouldn’t testify without immunity, so Skakel’s attorneys played his video statement. But the judge wasn’t persuaded and ruled against Michael Skakel.
JUDGE: Michael Skakel versus the state of Connecticut has been concluded.
Despite the judge’s ruling, almost a decade later in 2016, Robert Kennedy Jr. repeated Bryant’s allegations in his book “Framed”. Using Martha’s diary as evidence, Kennedy claims that three weeks before her murder, Martha wrote that she saw Tony and two strangers at a dance, but that’s not quite accurate. In her entry, Martha doesn’t mention Tony and she never uses the word strangers.
“October 4: Dear diary – tonight was a Sacred Heart dance …When we walked in, some guy asked me to dance … some other guy asked me, it turned out to be a slow dance. It was Stairway to Heaven. At the fast part, he wouldn’t even let go. … I also danced with Dicky, Neil, & Peter Zamenski. A lot with Dicky …”
The “Dicky” she mentioned is actually Richard Burns, who says he was with Martha much of that night.
Erin Moriarty: Seeing Tony Bryant, do you remember that at all?
Richard Burns: No.
Erin Moriarty: Did you ever meet Al Hasbrouck?
Richard Burns: No.
Erin Moriarty: Or Burton Tinsley?
Richard Burns: No.
Erin Moriarty: Don’t you think … you would have remembered if she was dancing with someone else who seemed possessive of her?
Richard Burns: She didn’t. She didn’t. We danced the whole night.
Larry Shoenbach: Al Hasbrouck is innocent.
Al Hasbrouck declined to be interviewed, and “48 Hours” was unable to reach Burton Tinsley. But Hasbrouck’s attorney Larry Shoenbach describes the allegations as false and inflammatory.
Larry Shoenbach: To coin a phrase, it’s Black versus White. … Let’s blame somebody else. It’s the Black guy … Let’s blame him why not. … Let’s take the most vulnerable person in our society and accuse him.
Larry Shoenbach: I am as certain as certain can be that neither … had anything to do with this.
Burton Tinsley and Al Hasbrouck don’t deny that they had been to belle haven on several occasions. But Schoenbach says there is no evidence that either one was in Belle Haven the night Martha was bludgeoned to death.
Larry Shoenbach: Nobody saw Al Hasbrouck, nobody … they would’ve seen a young guy, a Black man in a very, very white community and a big guy. But nobody saw him ’cause he wasn’t there.
Tori Holland: Somebody would have seen strangers and recognized that they were strangers. Nobody did.
Richard Burns: And I just thought that was kind of a cheap shot. … That they were going after … this Black kid from New York City, I mean, you know, really?
Tori Holland: I think it’s — they’re trying to find a scapegoat.
What’s more, Hasbrouck’s attorney is baffled as to why anyone would believe Tony Bryant. Bryant has a criminal history that includes a 1993 conviction for armed robbery in California. “48 Hours” tried to reach him, but couldn’t. Up until October 2021 he was serving a 7-year sentence in a Florida prison for tax evasion. Still, Shoenbach says Kennedy irresponsibly perpetuates Bryant’s allegations.
Larry Shoenbach: With no facts and no evidence, he continues to put forth this lie as a way of trying to clear his cousin and, I guess, by extension, the Kennedy name.
In November 2020, Kennedy insisted to “48 Hours” that Tony Bryant has no reason whatsoever to lie about Al Hasbrouck and Burton Tinsley. When we pressed him about it, he got up from the interview chair.
Erin Moriarty: Do you have any regrets of pointing the finger at two people who have never been suspects? There’s no physical evidence to tie them to the crime. They never —
Robert Kennedy Jr: There is plenty. There is lots of evidence that ties them to the crime. You have their best friend who says that they confessed to him.
But in the end, it wouldn’t be the words of Tony Bryant that changed everything for Michael Skakel.
SKAKEL’S END GAME
Michael Skakel did not give up. On April 16, 2013, Skakel was back in court with his attorney, Hubert Santos and a new argument that that media savvy defense attorney Mickey Sherman — hired to defend Michael at his 2002 trial — had botched the case.
MICHAEL SKAKEL (in court): Mickey had me believing he was the real deal.
He accused his former lawyer of being too chummy with the press.
MICHAEL SKAKEL (in court) He said he was a media whore.
HUBERT SANTOS: You spent most of your time talking to the media, right?
MICKEY SHERMAN: Is that a question?
HUBERT SANTOS: Yeah.
MICKEY SHERMAN: No.
And Michael Skakel claimed that Sherman failed to focus on a more viable suspect in Moxley’s murder: Michael’s own brother, Tommy.
HUBERT SANTOS: You knew that Tommy Skakel was the last person to see Martha Moxley alive?
MICKEY SHERMAN: I believe so.
Sherman never presented evidence of Tommy’s infamous temper.
HUBERT SANTOS: Did you know … that he strangled a fellow classmate right in front of his teacher?
MICKEY SHERMAN: I don’t recall that.
Sherman also failed to convince the judge to allow tommy to testify, which could have raised doubts about Michael’s involvement.
HUBERT SANTOS: Did you try?
MICKEY SHERMAN: He was going to invoke the Fifth Amendment no matter what we did.
Perhaps most shocking, Sherman failed to call a critical witness who supported Michael’s alibi that he was miles away the night Martha was murdered.
Lynne Tuohy: That was Dennis Ossorio, who was at the Terrien household the night they were all allegedly watching [“Monty Python’s Flying Circus”]. And Michael was allegedly there.
Robert Kennedy Jr: Mickey Sherman, instead of doing that, instead of calling, never talked to that witness.
But in 2013, Santos did.
HUBERT SANTOS: Was there anybody else at the home?
DENNIS OSSORIO The boys were there.
HUBERT SANTOS: Was Michael Skakel one of them?
DENNIS OSSORIO: Michael was with them.
Lynne Tuohy: He puts Michael Skakel at that house and has no motive to lie, he’s not related to Michael Skakel.
Skakel’s team argued that these missed opportunities would have created “reasonable doubt” for the jury, and the judge agreed. Six months later, he overturned Skakel’s conviction.
NEWS REPORT: Wednesday, a Connecticut judge granted the 53-year-old a new trial in the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley.
After 11-and-a-half years in prison, Michael Skakel walked out of the courthouse no longer a convicted killer.
HUBERT SANTOS [to reporters outside courthouse] An innocent man now goes free …
But not for long.
Lynne Tuohy: In 2016, the Connecticut Supreme Court … in a sharply divided decision … reinstates his conviction, saying the defense was adequate.
Michael Skakel, faced with returning to prison, then filed for reconsideration and in 2018, with a new judge on the bench, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed itself, now ruling that Skakel is entitled to a new trial. That trial would never happen.
State’s attorney [2020 hearing] Looking at the evidence your honor, looking at the — the state of the case, it is my belief that the state cannot prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt.
On October 30, 2020, the 45th anniversary of Martha Moxley’s murder, the State of Connecticut announced it would not retry Michael Skakel.
Richard Burns: You know, Michael’s going to walk around the rest of his life with that on his head … No matter whether or not it’s been vacated by the court, public opinion matters.
As for his brother Tommy …
Richard Burns: Years later, I ended up playing some golf with him a bunch of times.
Erin Moriarty: I mean, did you ever ask him point-blank?
Richard Burns: I did. … He – “I didn’t do it and it ruined my life.”
Lynne Tuohy: This case has been — a long and winding road, a very painful case emotionally for many people.
For Dorthy Moxley, time has done little to ease her loss.
DORTHY MOXLEY [2013 to reporters]: Martha, my baby, will never have a life… To lose a child is the worst thing in the world.
Lynne Tuohy: This was devastating to the Moxley family. Dorthy to this day remains convinced Martha was killed by Michael Skakel.
And so, after almost half a century of questions, and two families shattered, all that remains is one terrible truth.
Erin Moriarty: As we sit here today, no one has been convicted of Martha Moxley’s murder.
Tori Holland: No.
Richard Burns: That’s true.
Tori Holland: It’s very frustrating. It’s very upsetting.
Richard Burns: I think it’s sad that she’s not around to have, you know, lived these 45 years.
Tori Holland: I think she would’ve done great things. I think she would have been a great mother. She was always a great friend.
Lasting impressions of a life ended too soon. A life, that in Martha’s own words, was full of hope.
“Dear Diary, today is the last day of ’74. Boo hoo. ’74 has been one of the best years of my life. … Well, hope ’75 is as good.”
Michael and his brother, Tommy, according to one of his attorneys, have been estranged for years.
Produced by Asena Basak and Josh Gelman. Hannah Vair is the associate producer. Morgan Canty is the broadcast associate. Gregory McLaughlin, Phil Tangel and Jud Johnston are the editors. Patti Aronofsky is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer