In a 4-3 decision, the judges wrote that Skakel's defense attorney, Michael Sherman, was inept enough to qualify as a violation of Skakel's right to a fair trial. Skakel, the nephew of Robert Kennedy widow Ethel Kennedy, was convicted of the 1975 killing of his neighbor, Martha Moxley, when they both were 15 years old. He was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison and served about 10 years before this appeal.
The Hartford Courant reported that many observers think it's unlikely Skakel will stand for another trial.
The judges made their decision based on a determination that Sherman knew of, but did not call on, a credible witness who could have supported Skakel's alibi.
Skakel's new attorneys issued a statement that praised the decision. Martha Moxley's mother, 85-year-old Dorothy Moxley, told the Courant she believes Skakel is guilty of killing her daughter with a golf club.
"I really thought he would go back to jail because it seemed so simple, so obvious to me," Moxley said. "I have no doubts at all that Michael Skakel is the one who murdered my daughter."
Connecticut's Division of Criminal Justice said in a statement obtained by the Greenwich Time that the agency is "reviewing the court's opinions and [has] no comment at this time."