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Media Seeks Skakel Hearing Access

February 7, 2000

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) _ The Kennedy nephew charged with beating a neighbor to death in 1975 when he was 15 wants the court hearings opened to the media, even though juvenile court rules usually keep such proceedings closed.

Michael Skakel’s attorney, Michael Sherman, filed an affidavit Monday in which Skakel says he does not object to holding the hearings in public.

Sherman said Skakel wants the public to hear his side of the story.

``Right now, what’s being printed is gross speculation, double hearsay and assorted garbage,″ Sherman said. ``Once the public sees what the evidence is and what it is not, they will truly appreciate his innocence.″

Skakel, a 39-year-old nephew of Robert F. Kennedy, is charged with bludgeoning to death his 15-year-old Greenwich neighbor Martha Moxley with a golf club. He was charged with murder last month, but since he was a juvenile when the crime was committed, his case must be handled in juvenile court, at least initially.

Juvenile court files are sealed in Connecticut, reporters cannot attend the hearings and prosecutors cannot talk about the cases.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers said Monday they could not remember a time when an exception was made to those rules in Connecticut. But media interest and the defendant’s age may prompt a judge to open the proceedings.

Five newspapers have asked Judge Maureen Dennis to open Tuesday’s arraignment, arguing that Skakel already has effectively waived his juvenile confidentiality rights because he is an adult and because his name and the charges against him were made public by his own attorney.

The judge did not immediately rule on the request.

Prosecutor Jonathan Benedict has taken no position on whether the hearing should be open or closed.

The newspapers seeking the open hearing are The New York Times, The Hartford Courant, Newsday, The Advocate of Stamford and the Greenwich Time.

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