Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel's conviction for the murder of a 15-year-old girl was reinstated by Connecticut's highest court on Friday, December 30.
The Supreme Court reinstated the conviction after rejecting a Superior Court judge's finding that the trial was tainted by inadequate legal representation, the Associated Press reports. This means that Skakel, 56, could be headed back to prison after three years of freedom.
The decision was rendered in a 4-3 majority but in a sharply worded dissent, Justice Richard Palmer criticized the decision, accusing the majority of endorsing the outcome of a trial "literally riddled with highly prejudicial attorney incompetence," the Hartford Courant reports.
Palmer said that defense lawyer Mickey Sherman's failure to pursue a potential alibi witness and to point blame at Skakel's brother, Thomas (who was once a suspect in the case), robbed the defendant of a fair trial.
Skakel, who is the nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel, was convicted in 2002 of the 1975 murder of his neighbor Martha Moxley. He was sentenced to 20 years to life for bludgeoning the teen to death with the shaft of a broken golf club.
The conviction was overturned in October 2013, when a Superior Court judge ruled that Skakel's trial lawyer failed to adequately represent him, and he was granted a retrial. A month later, Skakel was released after posting a $1.2 million bond.
Friday's ruling came after the Supreme Court heard an appeal in February 2016 from the state prosecutors.
Moxley's mother, Dorthy, said earlier this year that she hoped the initial conviction would stand and that Skakel would "go back to jail," according to WTKR.
Skakel can now appeal the Supreme Court's decision in Federal Court. The AP reports that it is unclear if he will be headed back to prison or remain free if he appeals.
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