Kennedy cousin tries to stop tapes being played in murder retrial

STAMFORD Conn. Wed Jul 23, 2014 6:13pm EDT

Michael Skakel (R) and his defense attorney Jessica Santos reacts to being granted bail during his hearing at Stamford Superior Court, in Stamford, Connecticut November 21, 2013.   REUTERS/Bob Luckey/Pool

Michael Skakel (R) and his defense attorney Jessica Santos reacts to being granted bail during his hearing at Stamford Superior Court, in Stamford, Connecticut November 21, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Bob Luckey/Pool

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STAMFORD Conn. (Reuters) - Michael Skakel, a Kennedy cousin awaiting retrial after serving 11 years in prison for the murder of a teenage girl in Connecticut, wants to stop incriminating audiotapes from being used again as evidence, according to court filings on Wednesday.

One of Skakel's attorneys, Stephan Seegar, filed two motions in Stamford's superior court to keep recordings of a 1997 interview with writer Richard Hoffman from being presented as evidence, as they were during Skakel's first trial in 2002.

Skakel's attorneys are asking that the tapes be returned to him along with photos and other documents, arguing he is the legal owner because of a confidentiality agreement signed between Skakel and Hoffman.

The tapes include Skakel describing how he masturbated in a tree outside the home of 15-year-old neighbor Martha Moxley the night before she was beaten to death with a golf club in October 1975. Skakel was also 15 at the time.

Jurors at Skakel's first trial in May 2002 were permitted to listen to the recordings, which included his recalling "Mischief Night" - the night before Halloween - in his affluent Greenwich community.

Skakel says on the recording he "drank rum and tonics" at a local club, then climbed a tree outside Moxley's house while drunk and feeling "horny."

He states on the recording: "I remember thinking, 'Oh my God, if I tell anybody that I was out that night, they're gonna say I did it."

Skakel, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of slain U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy, was convicted of Moxley's murder in 2002 as an adult in a highly publicized trial.

He served 11 years in prison until a judge overturned the conviction last October on grounds of improper legal representation. No date has been set for the retrial. He is free on $1.2 million bond.

Skakel's attorneys maintain that state investigator Frank Garr "duped" Hoffman in 1999 to obtain the audiotapes. Hoffman, according to the motions, "had no choice but to provide the private and confidential materials to Garr.”

The motions alleged that Garr also unlawfully obtained materials for his 2013 book "Conviction: Solving the Moxley Murder" in violation of Skakel's civil rights.

Hoffman testified at a hearing last year that Garr said he had a warrant for the Skakel materials. At the same hearing, Garr said he did not recall the exact nature of the documents he presented to Hoffman.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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