CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interviews With Dorthy Moxley, John Moxley, Dominick Dunne
Aired June 7, 2002 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: Guilty. Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel stands convicted of murdering Martha Moxley almost 27 years ago. Joining us is Martha's mother, Dorthy Moxley. She never gave up hope she'd get justice for her daughter. And with her is her son and Martha's brother, John Moxley.
Also in New York, the best-selling crime writer Dominick Dunne. He covered the Skakel trial for "Vanity Fair." Like Dorthy Moxley, he lost a daughter to a brutal killer.
From outside the courthouse in Norwalk, Connecticut, Skakel's prosecutor Jonathan Benedict. We'll also have an exclusive interview with key prosecution witness John Higgins. He testified that Michael Skakel confessed to killing Martha many years ago.
And later, from the other side of this controversial case, Michael Skakel's defense attorney, Mickey Sherman, vowing to appeal. All that, your calls, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
What's it feel like, Dorthy?
DORTHY MOXLEY, MARTHA MOXLEY'S MOTHER: Well, I'm still pinching myself. I'm afraid I'll wake up tomorrow morning and it will be, you know, all over, that it won't be true. I've dreamed of this for 27 years. And...
KING: The moment before the verdict was read, when they opened up the envelope, what were you thinking when the foreman began to read?
D. MOXLEY: Well, I think my heart almost had stopped. It was -- I just kept thinking, I want it to be guilty, because I just believed so much in the system. And when he said "guilty," I just hugged my son and my sister-in-law, and I just could hardly believe it. It's been a dream come true.
KING: What was it like for you, John?
JOHN MOXLEY, MARTHA MOXLEY'S BROTHER: Well, like mom says, it's been 27 years in the making. We have really been doing this for the last 13 years. And it's just unbelievable.
KING: What was it like for you, opening the -- before they read? J. MOXLEY: It was -- it was just one of those moments that you'll remember forever. It was just so real and so intense, not knowing what was going to happen.
KING: Was it a relief?
J. MOXLEY: I don't know if "relief" is the right word.
KING: What is the right word?
J. MOXLEY: I don't yet. I don't know yet. It's going to take a long time to figure that out.
KING: Did either of you ever have a doubt about this, his guilt?
D. MOXLEY: No. Once I realized that, you know, it was Michael, I just never, ever doubted it for one minute.
KING: So in the past years, once you had the realization, did ever waiver?
J. MOXLEY: No. Michael was never a suspect for a long time. And it wasn't until...
KING: So he wasn't a suspect in your mind?
J. MOXLEY: Wasn't a suspect in our mind at all. And it wasn't until '98, the grand jury, when we started hearing all these bits and pieces and we saw how they all fit together. And we became convinced.
KING: Dominick, you've been on this for a long time. Wrote a novel about it, right, nine years ago? What's your thoughts tonight?
DOMINICK DUNNE, COVERED SKAKEL TRIAL FOR VANITY FAIR: Well, I have got to tell you, sitting in that courtroom this morning, I mean, there was such tension in that courtroom before this happened, when we were all sitting there. And a very nice woman, a friend of Dorthy's was next to me, who was like drawing pictures or something. And I just said, "will you stop doing that!" Because I was so nervous. And you know, I didn't really anticipate the verdict.
KING: You did not.
DUNNE: No, I didn't.
KING: You thought it would be not guilty?
DUNNE: I thought it would be -- it would be -- that it was a possibility. But when it became a reality, I was really shocked.
KING: Because many thought it would be a not guilty?
KING: Many courtroom experts. Isn't that true?
KING: So were you shocked at the verdict?
DUNNE: Yeah. But thrilled. Because I think this is absolutely the right verdict.
KING: No question in your mind justice was done?
DUNNE: No question in my mind that justice was done.
KING: How did you get on to this case?
DUNNE: Well, I was covering the William Kennedy Smith rape trial in Palm Beach, and this false rumor went through the courtroom there, that William Kennedy Smith had been in the Skakel house in Greenwich on the night of Martha Moxley's murder. So I went back and checked that out. And then that turned out not to be true.
And then, you know, I said, what ever happened to that story? Whatever happened to the thing? And they said, well, Tommy Skakel was the main suspect. The father had died, the mother had moved away. So I sought out Dorthy. And in 1991, I went to Annapolis, Maryland...
KING: And you wrote a book as fiction, though.
DUNNE: Yes. Yes. Because nobody knew what the facts were at that time. I was pretty close, by the way, to the...
KING: When did Mark Fuhrman pick it up?
KING: He got it from you.
DUNNE: He got it from me. Because there was a Sutton report, a Sutton private detective agency hired by Rushton Skakel, the father of Michael, the brother of Ethel Skakel Kennedy. And he hired this group of private detectives to take the cloud off his son, Tommy. And instead, it was they, these people whom he paid $750,000 to, it was they who unearthed Michael for the first time.
KING: Martha -- I mean, Dorthy, where were you the night Martha was killed?
D. MOXLEY: I was home. We lived in Greenwich, Connecticut in the Bell Haven section. And I was a do-it-yourself type of person. And I wanted to -- I was going to have new draperies delivered for our bedroom, so I was painting the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the windows.
KING: How did you learn of it?
D. MOXLEY: Martha's death? Oh, Martha didn't come home that night. And Martha was one of these girls who -- she was a delight. She did everything the right way. She just never -- you know, she never did much wrong.
KING: She said she was coming home, she came home.
D. MOXLEY: She said she was coming home, of course she was going to come home. And she did not come home that night. And my husband was in Atlanta, Georgia at a partner's meeting, and John was home.
KING: How old were you, John?
J. MOXLEY: Seventeen.
KING: Who -- did you learn before your mother?
J. MOXLEY: No. I learned -- I had gone to school. We had school off that day, but I had gone for a football practice. And then when I came home, I found out.
KING: Who told you?
D. MOXLEY: Three of my friends came to see me, and we were sitting in the living room when a knock at the door. And we went to the door, and it was one of Martha's friends, and she with in hysterics. And she said, "I think I have found Martha." The night before, I had called everyone I knew, everyone I knew, and so everyone was out looking for Martha. Everyone knew Martha was missing. And that's why these friends had come to be with me.
KING: One can assume there's nothing worse, both of you have experienced this, Dominick and you, both by murder, the loss of a daughter. One can assume there's nothing worse -- whatever second is a distant second. Do you ever get over it?
D. MOXLEY: No. I'm sure -- I don't want to get over it. I mean, I don't ever want to forget Martha. But, you know, time does help. It has been 27 years, almost. And I'm sure if it were like two or three years now, I wouldn't be able to be here.
KING: You never get over it, do you, Dominick?
DUNNE: Well, you never get over it. You go on with your life, though. I mean, that's very, very important. I mean, that honors also the daughter. But I mean -- it's part of me every day. And it's just part of my life.
KING: How close were you to your sister?
J. MOXLEY: Close. Close as, you know, as I think anybody.
KING: She was two years younger?
J. MOXLEY: Two years younger. We had just moved from the West Coast to the East Coast, so we didn't know a lot of people.
KING: Did you know the Skakels?
J. MOXLEY: No, we traveled in different circles.
KING: Did you know them? D. MOXLEY: I knew Rush.
KING: The father.
D. MOXLEY: Rush had been -- yes. It was very popular in those days to have cocktail parties, and we moved into Bell Haven, and we bought an old, run-down house. And I think the neighbors were elated that here was this family that moved in and we were going to fix up the house. And everyone had cocktail parties to introduce us. And Rush Skakel was -- he was one of the people that came. And in fact, we were asked to join the Bell Haven Club, the little beach club there, that's lovely. And Rush was one of our sponsors. And he sponsored my husband for the University Club here in New York. I mean, so he was becoming a good friend.
KING: We'll be back with more on this fascinating story. Don't go away.
KING: We're back. We're trying to find the word the Moxleys feel today.
John, are you happy? Is that the right word?
J. MOXLEY: No, not happy. You know, it's sad. It's -- you know, it's a lose-lose situation. It's funny, where we've worked on something for so long, we set goals. We, you know, we set a goal of finding who killed Martha. We set a goal of having him arrested, tried and convicted. And we've achieved all of those things. But it's absolutely hollow.
KING: Really anti-climactic, in a sense?
J. MOXLEY: You know, I don't know the word.
KING: "Hollow," though?
J. MOXLEY: It's -- there's no -- you know, there's no joy in it.
KING: No closure?
J. MOXLEY: "Victory" is the wrong word. There is no victory here.
KING: What are your feelings about Michael Skakel?
J. MOXLEY: Sad. You know, here is somebody that had every material advantage that anybody could ever want. And, you know, most people worry about how they're going to pay their bills. That was never a part of his life. And it just -- I mean, it goes to show you that money doesn't solve all your problems.
And, you know, it's parents; it's the power that a parent has in the raising of a child.
KING: He wasn't parented well?
J. MOXLEY: No. Apparently his mother was a wonderful person. And when she died, Rush Skakel's solution was to hire a staff. And, you know, it's like a business: Well, we need more help, let's hire more staff.
KING: Dorothy, do you hate Michael Skakel?
D. MOXLEY: No, I don't hate Michael Skakel. I...
KING: The court said he killed your daughter.
D. MOXLEY: I know. But if I were to say that I strongly disliked anyone, I would say that Rush Skakel, the father, is the person that I would put in that category.
D. MOXLEY: Because he had the responsibility of raising these children. And I think Michael, we know -- he admitted it in his book proposal that at 13 he was an alcoholic. And he wanted help. I mean, you just don't have children that have problems like that without a reason. And I think, you know, they had all the means to do something.
When his wife died, if he couldn't handle the children, then why didn't the family step in and help him or something?
KING: Was it difficult for you, Dorthy, to look at Michael during the trial, or not difficult?
D. MOXLEY: Not as difficult as it was for me to look at Rushton Skakel when he came into court. I found -- I'm sincere when I say that.
KING: Are you surprised at this, Dominick?
DUNNE: No, I'm not, because I know how Dorthy feelings about Rushton Skakel. And Rushton Skakel was a disgrace.
KING: But he didn't kill their daughter.
DUNNE: He didn't kill the daughter, but he raised some of the most dysfunctional children who have ever been raised.
There was a moment today -- I have to say, I think this was absolutely the right verdict. I'm thrilled with the verdict. But there was a moment today when I found that I actually kind of felt sorry for Michael, in a way, whom I believe is the murderer.
But the whole humiliation of when he said, I'd like to speak, and the judge said no, sit down. And then when they -- when the bail was denied him, and he had to go into prison and went in front of the whole courtroom; you know, two cops, one took each arm -- not cops, but bailiffs -- and put the arms behind him, it was very -- it's was -- you know, it's not possible to be more humiliated in your life than he was at that moment.
KING: Did you agree with the denial of bail? Usually rich people get bail continued.
DUNNE: Yes, well I think the judge was great, by the way. And...
KING: You would have denied bail, too?
DUNNE: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, I think he's a risk.
KING: To flee?
DUNNE: Yes, I think he's a risk to himself at this moment.
KING: You do?
DUNNE: I think that the despair must be -- think about that. He's sitting in a cell tonight, this rich kid. And I think that the despair must be absolutely overwhelming.
KING: John, do you think -- a man of 41 is not a man 15; it's not a boy 15. This is a different person now.
J. MOXLEY: Right.
KING: Do you think that gives him some leeway, in your mind, toward a lesser sentence maybe than...
J. MOXLEY: No, not at all. As a matter of fact, it should be more. I mean, here's somebody that's thumbed their nose at the rules all their life. You know, this was an inconvenience that the family could take care of. And, you know, we'll deal with it our way, as opposed to working with the law.
You know, if Michael and Rush had come to the police when he was 15 and he said, you know, I was drunk, I was stoned, I was out of my mind, I had a wild crush on Martha, she was with Tommy, I lost my mind, I did something, it was a mistake, there wouldn't have been all this damage to -- you know, we would have known it happened. It would have been over 20 years ago. You know, he certainly wouldn't have done the damage to the rest of his family.
KING: He would have been out by now.
J. MOXLEY: Yes.
DUNNE: Long since out.
KING: Do you want a life sentence? Do you want a long sentence? What do you want? What's justice to you?
J. MOXLEY: Justice to me would start with the 27 years that we've waited, and then some sort of penalty on top of that.
KING: So a minimum 27 years? J. MOXLEY: A minimum of 27 years, and then something as a...
J. MOXLEY: Token.
D. MOXLEY: I have said that I'd like to think about it a bit. But I think John speaks very well. I think that, yes.
KING: What's it -- he can get 10 years to life?
DUNNE: Ten to life, yes.
D. MOXLEY: Ten to life, yes.
KING: There will be -- was there a background done on this before? I mean, what's the procedure, Dominick?
DUNNE: I don't know.
KING: Do they do a background check in Connecticut?
J. MOXLEY: They -- apparently they set a range. A minimum of 10 to a minimum of 25 to life. And apparently there is some vehicle where the court will talk to us and see what our thoughts are and...
KING: They get the victims' thoughts?
J. MOXLEY: Right.
KING: So you will tell the judge what you're saying here tonight...
J. MOXLEY: Absolutely.
KING: Twenty-seven plus.
J. MOXLEY: Twenty-seven to start.
KING: Sound right to you, Dominick?
DUNNE: I don't know. This is their matter. I mean, the fact that he was convicted is satisfaction to me.
KING: We'll take a break. When we come back, we'll have an exclusive interview from Chicago with John Higgins, a key prosecution witness in the Skakel trial; a former classmate of Skakel's who testified that Michael confessed to Martha's murder.
We'll be right back.
KING: The Moxleys remain, the mother of the late Martha Moxley, Dorthy Moxley, the brother, John, the special correspondent for "Vanity Fair," Dominick Dunne.
Joining us now in Chicago is John Higgins, key prosecution witness in the Skakel trial. What, John -- before we talk to John Higgins -- John Moxley, what did John Higgins mean to the trial?
J. MOXLEY: I think John Higgins was very important, and I was so appreciative. And, you know, he showed a lot of courage. He was a very credible guy, somebody that obviously had a troubled past, but has gotten himself together. Doing something wrong 20-some-odd years ago isn't a life sentence. It's something that you can work on. And John Higgins, I think, is a stand-up fellow.
KING: You wanted to say something to him?
J. MOXLEY: Yes, absolutely. John, I very much appreciate everything that you did. I have nothing but respect for you. And I hope you feel good about yourself because we admire you.
KING: John, was it tough for you to come forward, John Higgins?
JOHN HIGGINS, TESTIFIED IN SKAKEL TRIAL: Yes, it was very tough for me to come forward. It was going to happen regardless of anything. But I feel absolutely fantastic about the way things worked out.
KING: You're glad the verdict came out the way it did?
HIGGINS: I most certainly am.
KING: Because you testified that Michael Skakel told you that he did it, right?
HIGGINS: That's correct.
KING: And you believed him, obviously?
HIGGINS: At the time, 20-odd years ago? No, I didn't believe him. I was at a place that was kind of crazy and I really didn't -- I didn't know if he was being truthful or whatever. But I believed him 20 years later when somebody told me the same story.
KING: So you thought then he was kind of like boasting, is that the word?
HIGGINS: No, he wasn't boasting. He was crying his eyes out and sobbing, and it was an extremely emotional thing. But I really didn't want to be involved with anything back then. I was in a bad place and wanted to get out of there.
KING: How did you react -- Mickey Sherman is going to be with us later. Were you bothered by his tough cross-examination of you?
HIGGINS: It's Mickey's job. I think he's made many comments that he probably shouldn't have made about me. But it's his job to be who he is, and I'm sure it's nothing personal.
KING: John, what are you doing now?
HIGGINS: What do I do for a living?
HIGGINS: I'm a local 150 operating engineer in Chicago.
KING: What does that mean?
HIGGINS: I run equipment.
KING: Dorthy, how do you feel about John Higgins?
D. MOXLEY: Oh, John, I am just so -- really, John, I just can't tell you how much I appreciate what you did. You know, I will be forever grateful and so thankful that you, you know, that you came forward when you did. I love you, John. It's wonderful. And I enjoyed meeting your wife. She's beautiful. And thank you so much.
KING: John Higgins...
KING: Was it tough to face Michael in the courtroom?
HIGGINS: No, it absolutely was not.
KING: I mean, you were friends, weren't you?
HIGGINS: No, we were never friends at Elon (ph). When you were there, you weren't really friends with anyone. It was more just survival, trying to get out of there without too much collateral damage.
KING: Dominick, do you foresee it as taking kind of guts to come forward? A lot of people avoid things.
DUNNE: The list -- there's people in this case who should have come forward who haven't come forward. I think what John did is absolutely wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.
And, you know, I just had a call the other day from a woman who wanted to come forward. And they almost brought her forward for the rebuttal, but there was a privacy issue. She had been at Anacapa by the Sea. Joanna (ph) Walker, her name is.
And in 1997, when Michael was at Anacapa by the Sea, which is an alcoholic rehab place beyond Malibu near Oxnard -- a lot of famous people there -- and he was very, very paranoid the whole time that he was being followed by the FBI and the CIA. And she -- this Joanna (ph) Walker said why? And he said because of something I did when I was a teenager. And finally she said to him -- this was in 1997 -- said to him did you do it? And he said, yes, and I've been running ever since.
And so I tried to bring her into the case, and they almost did. But on the privacy issue, it was turned down.
KING: John Higgins, where were you when you learned of the verdict today?
HIGGINS: I was at work. I was on a dig. We were replacing some sewer pipe.
KING: Who told you, or how did you learn of it?
HIGGINS: Actually, your producer called me and said that we're probably going to have to do this tonight. They just got a guilty verdict.
KING: So it was CNN, it was LARRY KING LIVE production staff, that informed you?
HIGGINS: It was LARRY KING LIVE productions that told me.
KING: That's being on the ball. How would you describe -- the Moxleys are having trouble finding a word about their feelings. What were your feelings when you heard it was guilty?
HIGGINS: Well, I have got to be honest with you. I feel pretty terrible for Michael. I think his family did him a tremendous injustice by allowing this thing to go on for as long as it did. They should have stepped up to the plate and dealt with it when it happened. And Michael could have had a life. And now he's had no life up to now, and will have no life from now forward.
KING: John Higgins, do you think the Kennedy connections and the fact of the wealth and the like kept this thing going so long?
HIGGINS: I would definitely say that money had something to do with it. The Kennedy connection, I don't find any relevance in it.
KING: You think money had something to do with it, John Moxley?
J. MOXLEY: I think money had something to do with it. I think that money and they had the ability to take Michael and take him out of the mainstream and save him from himself.
KING: Dominick, money?
DUNNE: Money, always, always, always. And I think no matter what they say now, I think at the time, there was a certain amount of intimidation about the family.
KING: The Kennedy family?
DUNNE: No. I'm not saying the Kennedys. No.
KING: The Skakels?
DUNNE: The Skakel family.
KING: Dorthy, money? D. MOXLEY: Money, yes. I think money was definitely an issue. If they hadn't -- you know, when you have money, you know what to do. You know who to hire and, you know.
KING: John Higgins, thank you very much for agreeing to join us. And I know the Moxleys have already expressed their thanks.
D. MOXLEY: Thanks again, John.
J. MOXLEY: Thanks, John.
HIGGINS: Thanks for having me.
KING: That was John Higgins, a key prosecution witness. When we come back, the Moxleys and Dominick Dunne will be joined by Jonathan Benedict, the prosecutor in the case. Jeffrey Toobin, our own legal analyst, said he won the case in summation. We'll talk with him and later we'll meet Mickey Sherman, the attorney for the defense.
Don't go away.
KING: Welcome back. Dorthy Moxley is with us. There is no second "o" in her name. It's Dorthy -- D-o-r-t-h-y, Martha Moxley's mother. John Moxley, the brother, and Dominick Dunne, the special correspondent for "Vanity Fair."
We're joined now in Norwalk, Connecticut by Jonathan Benedict, the very successful prosecutor of this case. What were your thoughts, Jonathan, when the -- right before the foreman read the verdict?
JONATHAN BENEDICT: By that point, the jury had filed in, and I had suggested to my associates that if people came in in tears, that that would have been a bad sign, because the tears would have been for Dorthy. But when they filed in, they were all dry-eyed, and nobody looked over toward the defense. At that point it was pretty clear to me what the verdict was going to be.
KING: Did four days seem long to you?
BENEDICT: No, it actually seemed a little shorter than I expected, to be honest.
BENEDICT: Because they had a lot to go through. They really only deliberated for two days, plus a half hour this morning. The equivalent of one day was devoted to playback, which really isn't that long, with a case where they had to determine the credibility of so many witnesses.
KING: Were you surprised that Michael didn't take the stand in his own defense?
BENEDICT: No, I don't think Michael could have taken the stand in his own defense. He would have had to somehow explain a dozen admissions to a dozen different people. It would have been an exhausting day for him and an exhausting day for me but, I think, a very successful day for our case.
KING: Some people were surprised, Jonathan, that the brother wasn't called -- Tommy. Why not?
BENEDICT: You'll have to ask Mr. Margolis, his attorney.
KING: It was his decision not to call him?
KING: Do you have any sentencing recommendations?
BENEDICT: No, not at this point. The minimum is not less than 10 or more than life, and the maximum is not less than 25 nor more than life.
We want to talk to the Moxleys and see what the probation report suggests, and give it some thought. We'll worry about that in a few weeks.
KING: Honestly, Jonathan, in a circumstantial case, does the prosecutor ever have doubts?
BENEDICT: Not really in this case. I have felt confident all along. I never guaranteed a win, and certainly it was a tough case, partly because it was such an old case. But doubts, no. You have your negative days when you don't get what you'd like to get out of one witness or another, but I thought the case would end overall very well. I thought our case built off the defense case. And of course the arguments went well as well.
KING: Did you think Mickey Sherman did a good job?
BENEDICT: Mickey gave an excellent argument, did a tremendous job confronting each and every witness. I just don't think that he had the evidence to pull an acquittal off with.
KING: Dorthy, what do you think of the job Jonathan Benedict did?
D. MOXLEY: He's one of my heroes. I have complete faith in him. When we first found out it was going to be Jonathan Benedict, Frank Garr, the lead detective, said Dorthy, he's really good, we're lucky, and so I have felt good right from the beginning.
KING: John, what do you think?
J. MOXLEY: I think he was brilliant. I think that, 27 years in the making, his summation exceeded everybody's expectations, and he was just absolutely terrific.
KING: Dominick, I don't think anybody has been in more court cases than you. How was his -- Jeffrey Toobin, I'll ask him -- Jeffrey Toobin, our legal analyst, said it was one of the best summations he ever heard.
DUNNE: It was the best that I ever heard. Jonathan is a classy guy, also. He is sort of laid-back, and I felt for a while he was too laid-back. He was too quiet. At one point the jury had to send a note to the judge to ask him to speak up, and when he's the closest person to it. But he has got a strength, a real strength. And when he got up there for the closing, I mean it was breathtaking he was so brilliant.
KING: Jonathan, does a closing win a case?
BENEDICT: No. The evidence wins the case. You can give the most wonderful argument ever, but if you don't have the evidence, the argument is just fluff, and we had strong evidence.
KING: How long did you work on that close?
BENEDICT: Oh, a long time.
KING: Does a good attorney kick it around with somebody, like with your wife or associates? Do you say what do you think of this? What do you think of that?
BENEDICT: My wife, in addition to our prosecution team, had been telling me on a daily basis for the last two months that I better wrap it up really well or we were going to be in big trouble, so it certainly put pressure on me.
In addition, my two associates, Chris and Sue, were terrific in helping me work on the argument, making sure I didn't forget to say the things that needed to be said.
KING: Well, Jonathan, we -- I guess congratulations are in order. How do you feel now? Do you feel closed, vindicated? How do you feel about Michael Skakel?
BENEDICT: Well, I feel professionally it's been a great day. I feel terrific for guys like John Higgins, who was the first pivotal witness to come forward. It's the kind of a day where it seems to be the routine is not to come forward and not to get involved. John was the first one who had good information to give that did so. I certainly feel terrific for the Moxleys. Their resiliency has been something else.
KING: Any sadness for Michael?
BENEDICT: No personal -- Michael? No, no personal feelings for Michael at all.
KING: Thank you, Jonathan. Thanks for joining us. I know it's been a long day. Jonathan Benedict, the prosecutor.
We will come back with some more moments with Dorthy and John and Dominick, and then we'll talk with defense attorney Mickey Sherman. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID SKAKEL, BROTHER OF MICHAEL SKAKEL: My brother Michael has impressed me with a sense and love and integrity that I literally have not seen, with such strength, in another person. And I'm so fortunate to know him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: By the way, we should tell you that Dominick Dunne, special correspondent for "Vanity Fair," his diary article for July is now on the stands. "The Rich and the Damned" is the title of this article. There you see it. And it includes Skakel trial coverage. Of course, it does not have the verdict, much to Dominick's disappointment. But he's on top of this scene forever. He is the best-selling author of "Justice" now out in paperback. Also, the 1993 novel based on this murder, "A Season in Purgatory." You mentioned something during the break, the other brother, Tommy.
DUNNE: Tommy. Tommy was like the dark cloud over this case. For 20 years, he was the main suspect. When I first knew you, he was still the main suspect in the case. And he never appeared. And he's got this lawyer, Manny Margolis (ph), who is taking notes all day long, and you know he's calling the notes up to him afterward. But finally he came. And he was there for one day only. And he wasn't at all like I thought he was going to be.
DUNNE: I don't know. Well, when you look at Michael, I thought he was going to be more like Michael, you know, sort of -- the way Michael looks. But he was -- I don't know. He was strange. There's no closeness between those brothers at all. And you know, you have to figure he has to hate him, if he was the suspect for 20 years and everybody was pointing at him, and it was the other brother. There has to be a complicated relationship.
KING: Dorthy, I asked you if it hurts you when you see Martha's picture, and you said no.
D. MOXLEY: No. You know, we've been working on this now, I've been talking about Martha's case almost every day for -- since 1991, that's 11, almost 12 years. So, you know, I have grown with this. And I'm -- we've done this a lot.
KING: Were you ever confident early on it would be resolved?
D. MOXLEY: There was a time when I thought nothing would ever happen. But then -- this has grown slowly and slowly. And it's been the work of many, many people. You know, John Higgins, the big people like Dominick, people like you, you interviewed my son before. And lots of people.
DUNNE: And Tim Dumas.
D. MOXLEY: And Tim Dumas, who wrote the wonderful book "Green Town."
DUNNE: And Len Levitt. We can't forget any of these people.
D. MOXLEY: I mean, I have...
J. MOXLEY: Frank Garr.
DUNNE: Frank Garr.
D. MOXLEY: ... I've always referred to a team of angels that I've had, because it seems as though these people just came from heaven. I mean, there were answers from God.
KING: There had to be times, John, when you thought nothing was ever going to happen.
J. MOXLEY: For a long time. You know, up through my late 20s, early 30s, I didn't think anything would happen. And I thought it was just going to go away.
KING: And still the feeling, though, is not yet complete.
J. MOXLEY: No, it's not. You know, I don't think it will ever be complete. I don't think that a guilty verdict and Michael spending the rest of his life in jail isn't the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle that makes it a beautiful picture.
KING: Maybe there is no final piece.
J. MOXLEY: No, I don't think there is, really.
KING: Dominick? Is this a finality to you as a journalist?
DUNNE: Well, I'll always be interested. I'm going to be in the courtroom when he's sentenced, also. I mean, I'm very interested to see what he's going to get. And I'm very interested to see what Mickey is going to do on the appeal. It's not over for me, no.
KING: Thank you all very much. Thanks for coming in tonight.
D. MOXLEY: Thank you for having us.
KING: Dorthy Moxley, John Moxley, the mother and brother of the late Martha Moxley, and Dominick Dunne of "Vanity Fair." Current article in the July issue, "The Rich and the Damned."
The famed defense attorney Mickey Sherman is next. Don't go away.
KING: And we wind up things tonight with the defense attorney for Michael Skakel, Mickey Sherman. Mickey, what were you thinking when the foreman opened the -- to read the verdict?
MICKEY SHERMAN, MICHAEL SKAKEL'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, you know, you've been doing this a long time, you get to know some signs. And as soon as they came out, I knew it was a guilty verdict. I think anybody who has been practicing criminal law could tell that as well. They had a somber look on their face. They wouldn't look over at us. Not that these are the, you know, the old tales, but it was pretty obvious that this was a jury that was very serious.
KING: The prosecutor praised you. Did he do a good job?
SHERMAN: He did a great job. And I've known John Benedict for 30 years. I've tried cases with him. He is a very good prosecutor; he's a very decent man as well.
KING: What lost this case?
SHERMAN: You know, John says I lost it on the facts. And he praised my argument, my skills, and I praised his as well. One of the elements that I couldn't control was the outrage factor. And you have a very lovely young girl whose life was taken in the most demonic way. And when they saw her picture up there time and time again, and then they look over here and they see Dorthy Moxley, who is, you know, the very essence of elegance, I think they wanted to do something good for her and I think they wanted to avenge this death.
And all they had in front of them was the body of Michael Skakel. And there were very unkind things said about him throughout the trial. He has been painted as a villain in the press. And that's not Michael Skakel. That's not the Michael Skakel I know, or the people who know him know. And I think we could never get past that PR factor, or that outrage, or that moral shock factor.
KING: Why didn't you let him take the stand?
SHERMAN: You know, I thought of it. And I'm usually someone who does have my client take the stand. But in Michael's case, as John Benedict pointed out a few moments ago, I really didn't need to, because his story was out. It wasn't the greatest story, though. But it was his story. And you know, you are dealt the cards that you have at the beginning of the case. We don't have the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of defenses. We take the defenses we have.
KING: All you can do is all you can do.
SHERMAN: All you can do -- but again, it was his story, and it was in his own words and it was also in his own voice, because they had this tape that they seized. So, you know, it was out there. I was never going to do any better than that, so why subject him to cross-examination. It's one of the things people like me always second-guess, but even in this dark night right now, I'm not second- guessing that aspect.
KING: How about Tommy?
SHERMAN: Tommy was always the man of mystery here. The state was going to call him, and that was fine with me. I was never intending on calling him. He certainly may have helped Michael's alibi, but in the long run it seemed the jury didn't buy any family member talking about an alibi, which I still don't understand.
KING: Where is Michael right now?
SHERMAN: Michael is locked up. He is in a maximum security prison in Connecticut.
KING: Maximum security.
SHERMAN: Yes, he is.
KING: Where he remains through all appeals...
SHERMAN: He will now remain there at least until the sentencing, or at least until we have the issues heard as to whether or not he should be released on bond before the sentencing.
KING: Can you appeal the ruling of no bond?
SHERMAN: I think we can. And we will take every possible step to make that happen.
KING: What did he say to you?
SHERMAN: Michael, being Michael, was very consoling to me. I was a wreck. Still am a wreck. And Michael was saying, don't worry, it's going to be OK. He trusts in the system, he trusts in me, trusts in God. And he believes that eventually he will be exonerated. We've been saying this a long time. This is kind of an obstacle, no question about it, but he believes that things will happen.
KING: Who does he think killed her?
SHERMAN: He doesn't know. And Larry, if he knew, he'd tell me, I'd tell you, and I would have told Jon Benedict a long time ago.
This is not a matter of family honor. It's not a conspiracy; it's not a conspiracy of silence. He has no clue.
KING: How did the judge -- you're going to appeal on how many grounds?
SHERMAN: We have a bunch of things that we can deal with. I don't want to start listing them now. The last thing I want to do is start dissing the judge.
KING: Well, was one of the things, that he didn't get a trial as a juvenile?
SHERMAN: Yes, I think the case should never have been transferred out of the juvenile court. This happened when he was 15. And there was nothing to dictate that he should be treated more harshly. Twenty-five years had gone by, he had not committed any serious crimes -- any crimes, much less that. So there's no reason this should have been ever taken out of the juvenile court. The reason they used is, well, we have no place to put him in case he's convicted. Well, in Connecticut, they've got a few bucks there; they could have found someplace.
KING: Any sense that the fame of Skakel, the relationship to the Kennedys hurt him?
SHERMAN: It hurt him. I mean, I've been trying not to embrace that all these years, in the four years I've been involved. And I don't blame the Kennedys, but there's a spotlight on this case that would not have been there had it not been for that affiliation.
KING: How damaging was the tree climbing masturbation story?
SHERMAN: Not damaging, it was the most damaging aspect of this case. We know that from seeing some of the interviews that have come out with the jurors. They could get past everything, it seems, but that story.
And the problem is, you're talking about a 15-year-old kid who did something weird, something offbeat. But to build a bridge between that behavior and murder, and a violent murder, I don't think that bridge could have been built.
KING: Do you learn a lot when you interview jurors?
SHERMAN: You do. You do. But then, again, it's specific and peculiar to those jurors. You can get 12 more people and have a totally different result.
KING: What about the closing argument? A lot of people have said today the prosecution's close won this.
SHERMAN: I don't know that the prosecutor's close won it. And I think Jon doesn't believe that either. I think he did a hell of a job; and I was the first one to congratulate him and shake his hand when he gave that argument.
I think the bar had been lowered because, I think, people had expected him to be too low key. But I agree with Jon Benedict when he said, it's evidence that wins it, and it's the people's perception of evidence. It's not the arguments themselves.
KING: Mickey, you've defended a lot of people. And some of the people had to have done what they were charged with.
KING: And some you believe, and some you don't believe. You've got to do your job, because your job is not to say whether they're guilty or not guilty, but to see that they get a fair trial.
Do you ever think your client may have done this?
SHERMAN: No. No. Not after I got to know him. Not after I got to know the case. I've never been this close to a client and this close to a case in my life.
KING: Is that a good idea, by the way?
SHERMAN: No it's not. It's not. I'm much too close to this case. I'm much too close to this client. But it allowed me to have the passion that I had, for what it's worth in the courtroom. But most importantly, it allowed me to get to know this guy so well, and really believe -- and really believe -- he didn't commit this crime...
KING: So then what does it do to you?
SHERMAN: Well, it takes away your impartiality. It takes away the dispassion. You're supposed to be somewhat separated from your client so you can divorce yourself from some of the emotional issues. I threw that away; and I'm proud of it, frankly. And that's because I like Michael Skakel. I like him a lot.
KING: Therefore, the guilty verdict has to annihilate you.
SHERMAN: It totally annihilates me. I will tell you that I was a wreck. I wanted to go home and hide under the bed, but you can't do that. As I said outside the courthouse, we're not giving up. I'm just going to be even more, more eager to help him.
KING: Mickey, what about him do you know that we don't?
SHERMAN: I know him. I know him. And that's such a good question, Larry. I know the Michael Skakel that goes out to the grocery store. I know the Michael Skakel that kids around at the place where he used to live. How he interacts with people. How he interacts with somebody who's going to park a car. How he knows the people -- the little people, as they say, in the world.
And Michael is one of the kindest people I've ever met. He loves people, and people love him -- those who know him.
The people who don't know him are the people who vilify him, because they know him from the "Star" of the "Globe" or the spin.
KING: Why did he confess?
SHERMAN: I don't believe he ever confessed. I do not believe he ever confessed...
KING: You believe that Higgins is lying?
SHERMAN: No, I don't believe John Higgins heard him confess. John Higgins heard him say, over a two-hour period, where John Higgins said nothing -- that's John Higgins' testimony. This is, by the way, coming forward 20-some-odd years later after hearing about a reward in "People" magazine.
And John Higgins' story is that one night Michael, while he was guarding him said, you know, I don't think I did it. I didn't do it. Maybe I did it. I could have done it. Do you think I did it? Maybe I did it. I guess I did it. That's John Higgins' confession. And that's what they were convicting him on.
KING: You mean he was just sort of, what, drunk?
SHERMAN: No. First of all, I don't know that I believe that it happened. You have to understand, however, the way it was at the Elan program. The state's witnesses -- not mine -- but the state's witnesses testified initially that Michael Skakel was beaten -- literally beaten to a pulp in a boxing ring, one person after another, until he went from saying "I didn't do this" to, "I don't know, maybe I did it." And that was the same, same confession of John Higgins.
KING: Why did courthouse veterans think you were going to win this one?
SHERMAN: I thought I was going to win this one. I don't believe they had any evidence. I don't believe they -- they didn't have any physical evidence. They had no forensic evidence. Their testimony was horrible. And it was a circumstantial evidence case based on a lot of lousy evidence.
I don't think anyone counted on the emotional impact of the death.
KING: Was Ethel Kennedy involved?
KING: Never talked to you?
SHERMAN: Frankly, no. I spoke to Bobby several times. Bobby came to court.
KING: He cared about this case?
SHERMAN: Absolutely; and cared about Michael Skakel, and was very articulate in many interviews -- I think the "New York Times," perhaps even on this show.
Very supportive. Very supportive. I think, as Bobby said, there's not a disingenuous bone in Michael's body. This young man is "totally without guile," to quote Bobby Kennedy Jr. And I totally agree with that.
KING: Is the family to blame, the father? Were these kids raised poorly?
SHERMAN: You know, someone said -- I think John said that this was a dysfunctional family. You know, tell me their family is not. You know, everyone's got their problems. And I don't place the blame on anybody, because I don't believe Michael Skakel committed the crime.
KING: Thanks Mickey.
SHERMAN: My pleasure, Larry.
KING: Mickey Sherman.
We want to give you an update on that 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart in Salt Lake City, kidnapped at gunpoint from her home very early on Wednesday morning. The police tip hot-line is 801-799-3000, or you can call toll-free 1-800-932-0190. There's a Web site as well: www.elizabethsmart.com.
We'll be back to tell you about tomorrow night right after this.
KING: Tomorrow night on LARRY KING WEEKEND: the cast and director of a phenomenal movie, "Windtalkers." It opens next week. I saw it already. It's about the Navajo Indians and the work they did in World War II in establishing a code the Japanese could not break. Nicolas Cage and others tomorrow night from "Windtalkers."
Next is Aaron Brown with his always spectacular news -- this program is one of my favorites, and Aaron Brown is one of my favorite people. And tonight he's got an exclusive dealing with Burnham case in the Philippines.
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