A Connecticut judge Wednesday ordered a retrial for Michael Skakel — a nephew of the late Robert F. Kennedy — who was convicted more than a decade ago in the 1975 murder of his teenage neighbor.
Judge Thomas Bishop ruled that Skakel's attorney did not sufficiently represent him when he was convicted in 2002 of bludgeoning Martha Moxley to death when they were both 15-year-olds in tony Greenwich, Conn., according to the Associated Press.
Skakel is the nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel Kennedy, as the son of her brother Rushton Skakel.
He has repeatedly and unsuccessfully appealed his conviction in the gruesome murder. He is currently serving 20 years to life behind bars.
Moxley was murdered after she and her friends attended a Halloween party at the Skakel home, where Michael and his then-16-year-old brother lived.
She was found underneath a tree in her family's backyard the next day. An autopsy indicated she had been beaten and stabbed with a golf club, which was found in pieces nearby. The club was traced to the Skakel home.
The case went cold for many years after Moxley's death, due to a lack of witnesses and alleged mismanagement by investigators. But a grand jury investigation reopened the case after books on the unsolved crime were published in the late 1990s, eventually leading to a trial and Skakel's conviction.
At a parole hearing in Suffield, Conn., last October, Skakel claimed that he is innocent — which he has insisted for years.
"If I could ease Mrs. Moxley's pain in any way, shape or form I would take responsibility all day long for this crime," Skakel said, according to the AP. But, he added, "I cannot bear false witness against myself."
Prosecutors plan to appeal Bishop's ruling, Bridgeport State's Attorney John Smriga told the AP. He said Skakel's original trial attorney, Michael Sherman, represented his client adequately, and that the verdict was based on compelling evidence.
But in Bishop's decision Wednesday, he slammed Sherman's efforts on behalf of Skakel.
" (The) defense counsel was in a myriad of ways ineffective," Bishop wrote in the decision obtained by The Hartford Courant newspaper.
The judge goes on to say: "The defense of a serious felony prosecution requires attention to detail, an energetic investigation and a coherent plan of defense capable (sic) executed. Trial counsel's failures in each of these areas of representation were significant and, ultimately, fatal to a constitutionally adequate defense."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.