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The state of Connecticut does not have reasonable cause to transfer Michael Skakel’s murder case to adult court because the 39-year-old has led a trouble-free life since Martha Moxley’s death in 1975, said Michael Sherman, Skakel’s attorney. “We intend to fight this issue hard,” said Sherman, who emphasized that Skakel has lived a crime-free existence. Skakel, 15 and Moxley’s neighbor in Greenwich at the time of her murder, now lives in Florida. The reasonable cause hearing begins June 20 in Stamford, Conn., Superior Court. Keeping the case in juvenile court is important to the defense because Skakel would face minimal to no prison time if found guilty of murder in that court, said David A. Moraghan, president of the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. Once Skakel reached the age of majority, however, the juvenile court lost jurisdiction over him, Moraghan said. Transferring Skakel’s case under the 1975 law could give Assistant State’s Attorney Jonathan Benedict fits. The court, in general, must find that there was reasonable cause that the suspect committed the crime and that the suspect is not amenable to rehabilitative treatment — or is a risk to society that requires restraint beyond the age of majority. Proving that Skakel is not amenable to rehabilitation or is a risk to society will be very difficult, Sherman said, because of Skakel’s clean life. “It’s actually easier to keep it in juvenile” under the 1975 reasonable cause criteria, Sherman said. “We have the advantage. We know what happened in the future. We have a 25-year track record as to whether he’s a danger and whether he needs treatment. He’s done nothing wrong.” Benedict was trying a case and unavailable for comment. But Frank Garr, Benedict’s lead investigator on the Moxley case, said the prosecution is ready for Sherman’s defense. “We’ve discussed that,” he said. “We’re prepared for those issues.” But the prosecution has “some real problems,” Moraghan said. “If he hasn’t had any legal difficulty-other than in his teen years-that’s a good indication that he’s not a threat to the community,” Moraghan said. Even if the case is transferred to adult court, there is no guarantee a charging grand jury — in effect in 1975 — would bring a murder indictment, he said. If the case stays in juvenile court, Judge Maureen A. Dennis would decide Skakel’s fate because juries are not seated for juvenile matters. That could be a detriment to the defense because Dennis has knowledge of the entire case and would not be as impressionable as juror might be, Moraghan said. Even so, a finding of guilt in juvenile court would probably not lead to a prison sentence, he said. A guilty finding “might provide closure to the [Moxley] family anyway,” he said. “I don’t know.” The public and press — especially Dorthy Moxley, the victim’s mother — crave a trial, but Sherman said the intense spotlight on the case wouldn’t sacrifice the integrity of the proceedings. “The judge will make the right decision,” he said, adding that Dennis is a fair-headed and intelligent jurist. Sherman said he expects to file some briefs before the hearing, including the possibility of bringing a motion to dismiss the murder charge as violative of the statute of limitations that was in effect in 1975. In 1975, the limitations period to bring a murder charge was five years. Nevertheless, the state Supreme Court has ruled in different ways about the issue. In State v. Paradise, the high court upheld dismissal of murder charges against two men charged with a murder that occurred seven years previously — and beyond the limitations period. But in State v. Golino, the high court held that the limitations statute dealt with crimes other than those “punishable by death.” Murder, a heinous offense, is always amenable to prosecution, the court ruled.

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