Skakel, 52, nephew of Robert Kennedy's wife, Ethel, was sentenced to 20 years to life for killing Martha Moxley, a neighbor in Greenwich, Conn., in 1975 when they were both 15. Hubert Santos, a member of his current legal team, told the Hartford Courant he plans to ask for Skakel's release on bail pending a new trial.
"It's been 11 years in the making," Santos said of Judge Thomas Bishop's decision.
Bishop, in a 135-page opinion, described Skakel's trial lawyer, Michael "Mickey" Sherman, as "in a myriad of ways ineffective."
"The defense of a serious felony prosecution requires attention to detail, an energetic investigation and a coherent plan of defense capably executed," the judge wrote. "Trial counsel's failures in each of these areas of representation were significant and, ultimately, fatal to a constitutionally adequate defense."
If Bishop's ruling is upheld on appeal, the state will have the choice of releasing or retrying Skakel.
Skakel's trial, more than a quarter century after the crime, would have been sensational without the Kennedy connection. Moxley was killed with a golf club in the wealthy Greenwich neighborhood where her family and the Skakels lived.