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Robert Kennedy's Nephew to Be Tried for Murder - 2002-04-02

Jury selection began Tuesday in Norwalk, Connecticut, for the 26-year-old murder case of Michael Skakel, a nephew of the late U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy.

It is expected to take about one month to choose 12 jurors and four alternates in this high profile case, in which a cousin of the powerful Kennedy family is charged with murder. Michael Skakel is accused of beating his neighbor Martha Moxley to death with a golf club in 1975, when they were both 15 years old.

Television cameras and news reporters were camped outside the courtroom, waiting for the arrival of Mr. Skakel. Apparently no members of the Kennedy family accompanied him, although a daughter of the late U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy will reportedly testify in Mr. Skakel's defense. A judge ruled in 1998 that there was enough evidence to charge and arrest Mr. Skakel, now 41, for the unsolved murder. Ms. Moxley's body was found near her home in a wealthy neighborhood in Greenwhich, Connecticut.

Hours earlier, Ms. Moxley had gone out with Mr. Skakel and a group of teenagers to mark the night before Halloween, when many youngsters play pranks.

Author Dominick Dunne has written a novel based on the case. Speaking outside the courthouse, he said that the prosecution's case relies heavily on the murder weapon, which allegedly belonged to Mr. Skakel. "I think that the main thing that they have that the prosecution has is that the murder weapon, the golf club was from a set of clubs that belonged to the late mother of Michael Skakel," Mr.Dunne said.

Mr. Skakel has pleaded innocent to the charges, but law enforcement authorities say he confessed to the crime more than two decades ago while attending a substance abuse facility. Members of Ms. Moxley's family say that they are excited to finally have their day in court.

Mr. Skakel was originally charged as a juvenile, but a judge ruled that the case should be transferred to a court which tries adults. The trial is expected to last about one month. If convicted, Mr. Skakel faces a minimum of ten years to life in prison.