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Early Edition

'A Season in Purgatory' Author Dominick Dunne Discusses Martha Moxley Murder Case

Aired February 1, 2001 - 8:10 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: A 25-year-old murder case has been cleared for trial. The accused is 40-year-old Kennedy relative Michael Skakel. A juvenile court judge in Connecticut has ruled the nephew of Ethel and Robert F. Kennedy will be tried as an adult in the killing of Martha Moxley. She was beaten to death with a very rare golf club. Both Moxley and Skakel were 15 years old at the time.

Last hour, Skakel's attorney, Mickey Sherman, told EARLY EDITION he wasn't surprised by the judge's ruling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICKEY SHERMAN, MICHAEL SKAKEL'S ATTORNEY: Michael Skakel's been convicted in the public, same as Richard Jewell was. And I choose that analogy very carefully. Everyone assumes he's guilty. He's been arrested, he's this Kennedy cousin, there's books, there's movies, there's a lot of spin, a lot of disinformation, and no one really knows the story. A jury trial will expose the evidence to the public, to the local and national public, and they'll see what the evidence is and what it's not, and they'll separate all the BS from the truth. And I think when they see that, they'll have a better understanding and appreciation of the fact that he's innocent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIN: Joining me now from New York is best-selling author and journalist Dominick Dunne, whose book, "A Season in Purgatory," revived interest in the Moxley case.

Good morning, Mr. Dunne.

DOMINICK DUNNE, AUTHOR, "A SEASON IN PURGATORY": Good morning.

LIN: Well, you heard Michael Sherman there. He is looking forward to a jury trial. And, in fact, he is looking forward to it taking place in the state of Connecticut. So how do you think the Skakel name, the connection to the Kennedy family is likely to influence the jury selection there, if at all?

DUNNE: Well, I don't know how it's going to influence the jury. There's certainly wide-spread interest in the case because of the connection to the Kennedy family. I know the Kennedy family is not pleased with this, that Michael Skakel is constantly referred to as the nephew of Ethel and Robert Kennedy instead of just the Skakel family.

LIN: Well, are they disassociating themselves from him then?

DUNNE: No, they aren't. No, Robert Kennedy Jr. has been very, very loyal to him and so forth. I don't know how that's going to influence the jury. What Mickey Sherman is saying is what he's being paid to say and what he should say.

I think there's great satisfaction for the Moxley family after all these years that, number one, Michael Skakel was indicted, and that, number two, the judge ruled that there was enough evidence to go to trial, and, number three, that she decided that he should be tried as an adult and not a juvenile.

LIN: You have written about a meeting that you had from -- with a source at an upscale restaurant on the east side of New York, the restaurant the Trune (ph). And you said that the source told you that Michael Skakel's father had hired a private detective to actually investigate his own son's case, perhaps hoping to exonerate him, but may have found evidence against him. Do you think this is the evidence that's going to come up in trial? What are the chances of that?

DUNNE: Well, I think certainly that will probably come up in the trial. I don't know what evidence the prosecutor has. I believe he has to have more than the students at the Elan School who appeared at the hearings. I think it could be a very hard case to prove, but I happen to be very -- I think it's absolute right that the case is going to trial and that he is being tried as an adult.

LIN: I know you're not a prosecutor, I know you're not an attorney. You're an author and a journalist. But I have to ask you, you've gotten to know the Moxley family well. You have worked your police sources, taken a look at this case. What do you think? Do you think he did it?

DUNNE: Yes, I do.

LIN: Why?

DUNNE: Yes I do. Yes I do. Well, I think the main thing is the golf club murder weapon that belonged to his mother. He and his brother Tommy were the last people to be seen with her. I mean, I think that after all these years that the -- that there certainly was enough evidence that they came up with after the grand jury for the case to go to trial.

LIN: But Mr. Dunne, you yourself witnessed the O.J. Simpson trial, both the first one, the criminal case and the civil case. You know as well as anybody that a case can turn and twist on a jury's whim. So...

DUNNE: That's absolutely right. That's absolutely right.

LIN: Is there potential here for that as well? DUNNE: Well, that -- it can always happen in any trial. But to me, there is satisfaction in both the indictment and the fact that the case is going to trial, finally.

LIN: All right, thank you very much, Dominick Dunne, for joining us this morning...

DUNNE: Thank you.

LIN: ... on this very interesting case. We shall see what happens as this case now goes to adult court. And Mr. Skakel could potentially face 25 years to life in prison as a result of that if he is convicted.

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