VERNON, Conn. (CBS/AP) — A Connecticut judge says he cannot grant Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel bail while he awaits a new trial in the 1975 slaying of neighbor Martha Moxley.
Judge Thomas Bishop told the court he doesn’t have the authority to grant bail while the appeals process plays out.
Prosecutors are currently appealing the judge’s decision to throw out Skakel’s murder conviction.
Bishop did lift a stay, which could clear the way for Skakel to seek bail later.
Prosecutors can appeal the decision on the stay, which would likely keep Skakel behind bars.
Skakel’s attorney calls the state’s case weak and is pushing for immediate release. Prosecutors called the case strong and say Skakel should remain behind bars.
Bishop ruled on Oct. 23 that Skakel’s trial attorney failed to adequately represent him in 2002 when he was convicted in Moxley’s golf club bludgeoning. Skakel and Moxley were 15-year-old neighbors in wealthy Greenwich at the time of her death.
Skakel entered the courtroom Wednesday with a smile and a wave to his relatives and supporters.
Skakel is the 53-year-old nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel.
Skakel’s current attorney, Hubert Santos, filed a motion after the ruling seeking a $500,000 bond. Bishop asked for legal briefs from both sides, questioning whether he has the authority to consider a motion for bond because his orders are stayed and state law excludes bail for those convicted of murder.
Prosecutor Susann Gill said state law excludes bail for those convicted of murder and terminating the stay would thwart the administration of justice by requiring the state to retry Skakel before an appeal is finished.
“The state is entitled to avail itself of the appellate process and seek vindication of a result it believes to be unjust,” Gill wrote.
Santos said Bishop has the authority and keeping Skakel in prison would be a miscarriage of justice. Santos said automatic stays during appeals do not apply to cases like Skakel’s and, even if they did, the court has the authority to terminate the stay.
Skakel “has been returned to the status of an innocent defendant awaiting trial,” Santos wrote, adding he was not a flight risk and contends it’s “highly unlikely” prosecutors will win their appeal.
Gill said she disagrees that an appeal likely won’t be successful.
Sherman has said he did all he could to prevent Skakel’s conviction and prosecutors have defended his work.