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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 19:52 GMT 20:52 UK
Murder trial opens for Kennedy nephew
The murder trial of Michael Skakel - nephew of the late Senator Robert Kennedy - has begun, more than two decades after the crime was committed.

Mr Skakel, now 42, is accused of beating Martha Moxley to death with a golf club in their wealthy Connecticut neighbourhood.

The incident happened in 1975, when both were 15 years old.

If convicted, Mr Skakel faces life in prison.

He declined to speak to reporters as he arrived at the courthouse on Tuesday morning, and it is unclear if he will testify during the trial.

Mr Skakel arriving in court
Mr Skakel arrived in court for the beginning of jury selection
"Our sights are higher than merely creating reasonable doubt," said Mr Skakel's lawyer, Michael Sherman.

"I would like the jury to go away feeling that Michael Skakel is truly innocent."

John Moxley, Martha's brother, said his family was glad the case had finally come to court.

"It's a whole new beginning," Mr Moxley said.

Mr Skakel was originally due to be tried in juvenile court due to his age at the time of the murder. Last year, however, the case was transferred to an adult court in Connecticut.

Stabbed to death

Martha Moxley was beaten and stabbed to death with the shaft of a golf club in Belle Haven, a wealthy gated community in Connecticut where she and Mr Skakel's family were neighbours.

The murder weapon was traced to a set of golf clubs owned by Mr Skakel's mother, Edith, and both Michael and his elder brother Thomas were thought to have been romantically interested in the girl.

Martha Moxley
Martha Moxley's murder shocked the wealthy Connecticut community
The prosecution is expected to cite this interest - and possible rejection of it by Martha Moxley - as a motive for her murder.

The defence, however, is reportedly intending to point the finger at other suspects from the time of the crime.

On the night of her death, Martha Moxley had visited the Skakel home along with several other teenagers after a night of pre-Halloween pranks.

Her body was found the next day under low-hanging fir trees on her family's property, located across the street from the Skakel estate.

Police criticism

Greenwich police faced heavy criticism for their handling of the case, which has remained unsolved for nearly 26 years.

Many felt the power of the Kennedy name had prevented a more thorough investigation taking place.

Mr Skakel has struggled with personal problems, including spells in drug rehabilitation centres such as Elan School in the state of Maine, where he is alleged to have confessed to the crime.

It took constant campaigning by Moxley's mother Dorothy and the publication of several books on the subject by notable authors such as Dominick Dunne and former OJ Simpson policeman Mark Fuhrman, to regenerate interest in the case.

In January 2000, Mr Skakel was finally arrested after a one-judge grand jury investigated the case.

See also:

31 Jan 01 | Americas
Kennedy nephew to be tried as adult
14 Mar 00 | Americas
Kennedy relative charged with murder
21 Jul 99 | Americas
The Kennedys: A family cursed
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