NORWALK, Conn., June 7 (UPI) -- Just after 11 a.m. Friday, 26 1/2 years after a pretty Greenwich, Conn., girl was bludgeoned to death just yards from her home, 12 grim jurors looked on as their foreman pronounced Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel guilty of the murder.
Skakel stood facing the jury, pursing his lips and showing no emotion, even as he was denied bail by Judge John F. Kavanewsky Jr. and ordered to return July 19 for sentencing. Skakel faces 10 years to life in prison.
His lawyer, Michael Sherman, said he would appeal the conviction.
The jurors deliberated in a spare courtroom from Tuesday through Wednesday, returning several times to the trial courtroom to hear testimony read back to them.
At 10:21 a.m. Friday, shortly after entering the courthouse, the jurors sent a note to the judge informing him they were ready with a verdict. The trial had started exactly a month before, on May 7.
When the jurors entered the hushed courtroom, only one even looked toward the defendant before sitting in the jury box.
As the verdict was pronounced, friends and relatives of the victim, Martha Moxley, gasped. One blurted out "No!" in surprise. Another exclaimed, "Oh, my God." Soon they were hugging each other.
Juror Laura Copeland, sitting just a few feet away from Moxley's mother, Dorthy, and brother, John, looked their way and smiled slightly. A spokeswoman for the state judiciary later said the jurors declined to speak to news organizations at the courthouse.
Skakel's friends and relatives stood silently on their side of the courtroom. His brother, David, covered his eyes with his hand and cried.
When Kavanewsky asked whether lawyers from either side had anything further to say, referring to possible new motions, Skakel said, "I'd like to say something."
"No sir," Kavanewsky firmly told him. Sherman then briefly whispered to Skakel, and he was silent.
Skakel's hands were soon cuffed behind his back. Judicial marshals took Skakel to Bridgeport Correctional Center, the nearest jail.
Within 10 minutes of the verdict, Kavanewsky closed the hearing. Dorthy Moxley, the victim's mother, her eyeglasses off, hugged each prosecutor in turn and each of her friends. Husband John Moxley also hugged the prosecutors, emerging from the courtroom teary-eyed. On the other side of the courtroom, the Skakel family and supporters stood in silence.
Dorthy Moxley told reporters outside the small courthouse that she did not think the day "would ever come" when a jury would find her daughter's killer guilty. "This was truly Martha's day. ...
"I was listening so intently (in the courtroom), and I could hardly believe it."
For us, this trial has felt like a witch hunt," said David Skakel, speaking for the Skakel family. "Fortunately, we're a family with a bedrock of faith. Our faith has been tested today. ... Michael is innocent. I know this because I know Michael like only a brother does."
Dorthy and John Moxley both expressed sympathy for the Skakel family, just as Skakel's brothers, David and John, expressed sympathy for the Moxleys.
Author Dominick Dunne, who had written both a fictionalized account of the case and magazine articles about it, hugged various Moxley friends after the verdict. He said later that he was more than surprised to find Michael Skakel found guilty. He said he was "stunned, stunned, stunned."
Timothy Dumas, who wrote "A Wealth of Evil," a book about the Moxley case and who observed the month-long trial, said the verdict surprised him as well. "I was totally blown away, " he said.
Prosecutor Jonathan Benedict said, "It's nice to say once in a while that justice delayed does not have to be justice denied."
Skakel's own words to various people in the past 26 1/2 years made the state's case, despite the lack of forensic evidence and dearth of physical evidence, Benedict said. "He really hung himself from his own petard."
The verdict was the most decisive moment in the case since the night of Oct. 30, 1975, when Moxley, 15, was clubbed to death with a golf club owned by the Skakel family.
The popular, flirtatious girl's body was found the next morning under a pine tree about 50 yards from her home. Michael Skakel's brother, Thomas, was the last person witnesses saw the girl with at about 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 30.
Some of Skakel's siblings and cousins provided an alibi for him for much of the night of the murder. That night, they said, he went with them to a cousin's house elsewhere in Greenwich to watch the premier of "Monty Python's Flying Circus."
Several years later, At the Elan school in Poland Springs, Maine, Skakel told people he was drunk, on drugs and blacked out for much of that night and didn't know if he murdered the girl. In the 1990s, Skakel said that late on the night of the murder he sneaked out of his home and was unknowingly close to the scene of the murder, masturbating in a tree.
When the Moxleys walked to their car at the side of the courthouse, a crowd of about 60 supporters cheered and clapped for them. One held a banner proclaiming "Justice at last."
"This is certainly the most upsetting verdict I've ever had or will ever have in my life," Sherman said. Although Sherman said he is not bitter at anyone, he added, "This is not over."
Some grounds for appeal may be the transfer of the case from juvenile court to adult court, Sherman indicated. The "shock factor" from gory photographs of Moxley's body projected onto a courtroom screen by prosecutors seems to have unfairly influenced the jury, he said.