Michael Skakel, a cousin of the late President John F. Kennedy and his famous siblings, is now a serving a prison sentence of 20-years-to-life for the murder of Martha Moxley when they both were teens. Specifically, Skakel was 15 at the time of the murder, which occurred in 1975. However, he wasn’t convicted of the crime until 2002, when was 42. To this day, he still denies having murdered Moxley.
Skakel’s lawyer is now appealing the sentence to a panel of judges, arguing that it was excessive and that he should have been out of prison by now. The basis of the appeal is that Skakel was a juvenile at the time of the crime and that, if he had been charged then, he would have been tried in juvenile court, where the maximum sentence would have been four years. Skakel has now served nearly ten years.
I completely agree with Skakel’s lawyer, and hope the judges deciding this case will free Mr. Skakel as soon as possible. While I have difficulty sympathizing with Skakel, and I believe the crime he committed was both despicable and vile, my sense of fairness tells me he’s been in prison long enough. Almost any 15-year-old who committed a murder in 1975 would have been freed long ago.
The fact that Skakel wasn’t convicted until he was 42 is completely irrelevant here. That doesn’t change the fact that he was just 15 when he murdered that girl. Obviously, his age at the time of the murder is not an excuse. He was old enough to know right from wrong. But the fact remains that he should have been tried in juvenile court – even at the age of 42 – where a conviction would have kept him detained no longer than four years. Why should he be treated any differently than anyone else under the same set of circumstances?