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Murder Trial Begins 27 Years After Connecticut Teen Killed - 2002-05-07

The long-anticipated murder trial of Michael Skakel - a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, widow of the late U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy - has begun in Norwalk, Connecticut.

After nearly three decades, the high-profile, unsolved murder of Connecticut teenager Martha Moxley has gone to trial.

A cousin of the Kennedy family, Michael Skakel, is accused of beating his friend and neighbor, Ms. Moxley, to death with a golf club in 1975 when they were both 15 years old.

The murder weapon has allegedly been traced to a set of golf clubs owned by Mr. Skakel's mother.

Mr. Skakel has pleaded innocent to the charges. His attorney Michael Sherman has said that the prosecution has no physical evidence and the family is ready to put the case behind them.

"The whole family is finally looking to have this black cloud removed. And they believe that Michael Skakel will be exonerated and I believe that as well. So in some ways it is a relief. We are finally getting to the light at the end of the tunnel," Mr. Sherman said.

The prosecution has more than 40 witnesses in the case, much of which relies on an alleged confession made by Mr. Skakel in the late 1970s, while he attended a substance-abuse facility.

In his opening arguments, the prosecutor said "some people can not keep a secret. [Mr. Skakel] has been talking about his night of mischief since 1978."

Mr. Skakel's attorney is expected to call witnesses from the same institution to try to refute the alleged confession.

Ms. Moxley's mother, Dorothy Moxley, was the first witness called. The prosecution says it will try to submit entries from Ms. Moxley's diary as evidence.

The courtroom is closed to television cameras, however dozens of reporters have gathered outside the courthouse for the long-awaited case, which has inspired several books and television specials.

Mr. Skakel was originally charged as a juvenile, but the case was transferred to an adult court. If convicted, Mr. Skakel faces a minimum of ten years to life in prison.