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Skakel Sentenced to 20 Years to Life
Aired August 29, 2002 - 12:53 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He said -- he cited God many times throughout the course of his statement, which he said his lawyers had advised him not to make. He said the happiest day of my life was when my son George was born, and he was crying with all of this. He said my life has been ruined by this. I have not been able to hold a job. People think I am rich. Check my bank account. I never earned more than $50,000 is what he said.
What he also said is whatever sentence you impose on me, I accept in God's name. Again, his comments filled with references to God, how he had a conversion back in '82, almost to the day really that Martha Moxley was killed in late October, saying that he knew that he had to straighten his life out, God came to him saying "Do it your way, or do it my way." He broke down in tears. He was very, very emotional while speaking to a judge. It was the first time he got a chance to see this side of Michael Skakel, a very human side, a very compassionate side, and a very religious, spiritual side, everything his friends have been talking about, but today, he made it clear. He said I accept whatever sentence I get in God's name.
Kyra, we have a guest here. I do. I want to bring him in. Stan Twardy is a former U.S. attorney here in Connecticut.
Stan, 20 years to life, what does that mean really?
STAN TWARDY, FMR. U.S. ATTY. GENERAL: Ten years minimum. Probably something more than that, but not much. The fact that the judge put it no more than life is sending a signal to the parole board that he should be out. He shouldn't spend an extended period of time in jail.
Remember, one of the things that happened with the parole board, they have the discretion whether or not somebody can be released. On a life sentence in Connecticut, traditionally parole boards keep people in for life. Judge Kavanewsky has sent a signal, he should be able to come out of jail after he served his minimum time.
FEYERICK: You say the minimum time, which is effectively 10 years. You are talking about that because of the 1975 good time credits, which basically cuts a person's sentence in half.
TWARDY: That's correct. So he will be able to get out of jail roughly 10 years after he goes in. He will get credit for the couple of months he has been in jail already. So basically, he will spend 10 years in jail. And sometime thereafter, he will be available for parole. And Judge Kavanewsky has sent the message to the parole board, he should be able to come out. FEYERICK: Really, OK, so it's that strong? I mean, usually it's the parole board that decides whether they're going to even let him out or not.
TWARDY: The parole board will decide ultimately. The judge's signal of the not more than life I think is sending the signal, you don't need to keep him in there for life.
FEYERICK: OK. Do you think that Michael Skakel's speech in any way may have had an impact on think judge, or do you think confirmed that this was a decent sentence, or fair, I should say?
TWARDY: Well, I think clearly his statement had to touch the judge. Any time a judge is sitting in a case and sending somebody to jail, it is a difficult decision. I am sure this made it more difficult for the judge. Whether or not it changed from 25 years to 20 years, only the judge will know. He did send a very strong signal, the judge, 20 years in jail. It's twice the minimum of 10 years.
FEYERICK: OK. At the same time, Mickey Sherman, again that was Michael Skakel's trial lawyer, said, judge, we cannot assume that if you sentence him to a minimum that, in fact, he is going to get out in time because of the good time behavior, we have to assume that maybe he will serve all 20 years. What is the thinking there?
TWARDY: Well, I think the thinking there was to send the signal to the judge, come down as low as possible. If you want him in jail for 10 years, say 10 years, because you don't know what's going to happen. But I think in most cases, unless he tries to escape, unless he engages in bad behavior, he will likely be able to get out sometime after 10 years.
FEYERICK: OK. So basically 20 years, he will likely serve half of that.
TWARDY: That is correct.
FEYERICK: All right anything else in terms of appeal. Do you think this will send a message to the next court?
TWARDY: Well, I am not sure it will send a message to next court. The court has a lot to look at. The various issues have been raised by the defense lawyers, issues raised even before this trial.
I think what will be interesting now is whether or not Mr. Skakel is let out on bail. We know his defense lawyers are arguing that he should be let out on bail. There is a recent Connecticut supreme court case that talks about the rights of individuals who have been convicted of violent crimes, such as this, to appeal pending -- I mean...
FEYERICK: Do you think that's likely, though, that the judge will say, everything you have shown to me, you are no longer a threat to society, I will release you on bail pending you're appeal. The ruling really just gives him the discretion to say, we can let you out, it doesn't necessarily say I am going to let you out. TWARDY: You are correct. It clearly doesn't say he has to let him out. My bet would be that the judge does not let him out on bail. He didn't let him out on bail after the conviction, before the sentencing.
Now that he knows he is going to be in jail for 20 years, there is more of a threat that Mr. Skakel will try to flee. And the whole purpose of bail pending appeal is to ensure that something will appear for the next stage. If somebody knows he is going to go to jail for 20 years, it increases the risk that somebody will try to flee. I am not saying Mr. Skakel would, but the court is going to be thinking about that. Might he leave the jurisdiction, will he ever show up, go to jail?
FEYERICK: And then finally, how much time do they have to mount an appeal now.
TWARDY: Well, they have already noticed their appeal. They are actually technically ahead 10 days in which to notice their appeal. They've already put the appellant court on notice they will be appealing. Practically, you are not going to see this done in Connecticut supreme court for another year to 18 months, just because of the timeframe.
FEYERICK: But there is no specific deadline as to when they have to file?
TWARDY: They have to file within 10 days certain documents, 20 days other documents, but those are just notices of appeal. They are not the actual appellant briefs.
FEYERICK: I do want to bring in one very fast thing, and that is that the Supreme Court, now that Michael Skakel has been sentenced, must consider whether this case should have been moved to juvenile court to an adult court. Can we expect that decision? That could overturn this sentence.
TWARDY: It could. The way that was left that they were going to wait until the trial. The problem is that, although, it was briefed, it has not been heard by the Supreme Court. So the Supreme Court would have to reinstate it, hear arguments again. It is possible, but I think it's unlikely. I think the Supreme Court will wait and hear everything at once.
All right, Sam Twardy, thank you very much for joining us on this issue.
Let me repeat the sentence then: 20 years, no more than life. It is likely Michael Skakel will serve about half that time. Kyra, you heard me mention these good time credits. What that is When a prisoner begins his sentence, he receives a block of time, almost an incentive for him to behave well, and that block of time says this will knock this amount of days off of the sentence if, in fact, you behave. So that's we're talking about. That's why it's a shorter sentence.
But Skakel's lawyer did make the point, look, we can't assume that it's going to be cut in half.
So that's where we are, Michael Skakel giving a very impassioned statement to the judge, invoking God, saying he puts his trust and faith in God. It has been very difficult for him. It has been especially difficult for his son, and he is heart broken that he will not be able to see him. Kyra?
PHILLIPS: Deborah, I am very curious to know how the Moxley family reacted. What type of reaction from that family, friends of Martha Moxley?
FEYERICK: The Moxleys had wanted a maximum sentence of 25 years to life. They said, though, that they would accept whatever sentence the judge gave, and so that's what they will have to do. They wanted sort of a year for a year. Every year that Martha was gone, they wanted a year for Michael Skakel. They didn't get that, but they got something sort of close. Anyway, it is probably not going to be good, as Mickey Sherman said, there are going to be no winners here. Nobody is going to walk out of the building high fiving each other. This is not a good day for either family, necessarily. Kyra?
PHILLIPS: Did the families interact at all, the Skakel family and the Moxley family?
FEYERICK: No. Not at all today. There was a lot of tension yesterday between the two families. For example, Mrs. Moxley got up to speak to the judge, and that point, Michael's sister got up and walked out of the courtroom, and then one of the aunts, who is Ethel Kennedy's sister, made a derogatory comment about John Moxley, so again it was just a lot of tension in the court because the stakes are so high on both sides.
PHILLIPS: Was Robert Kennedy Jr. in the courtroom?
FEYERICK: He was not in the courtroom physically, but the defense lawyer did read a letter from Robert Kennedy: All the reasons why Michael Skakel should get a lighter sentence than the life sentence, basically, saying how Michael helped me get sober when -- back in '83, listing a whole host of reasons why Michael Skakel, you know, just didn't have it in him to commit this crime, so the presence of Robert Kennedy was very much there.
PHILLIPS: I remember Stan saying to you, Deborah, just a little bit ago that he was very interested to see if Skakel was going to come out and say, I am sorry, I did it. And see what kind of -- It would be interesting to see what kind of impact that would make on the judge. Does this surprise you at all? Is anybody surprised that he didn't do that? Or was this expected, that he wouldn't admit to the crime?
FEYERICK: No. He wasn't going to admit to the crime. The one thing he said is that, he said, "I have been accused of a crime, and I'd love to be able to say, I did it so it would give the Moxleys some rest, but I can't do that," he said, "because I can't bear false witness, not against other people and not against myself." So again, maintaining that, you know -- he also said that he prays for the Moxleys every night. He cries for the family. He cries for their loss, but again, very, very solid in maintaining that he did not do this.
PHILLIPS: Connecticut is known to be a very -- a very tough state when it comes to violent murder cases. Is this tough, Deb?
FEYERICK: I'm sorry, the sentence, is the sentence tough? You stated that just quickly.
PHILLIPS: No, I -- that's OK. Well, I was talking about, you know, Connecticut. Connecticut is a tough state ...
PHILLIPS: ... when it comes -- you and I talked about that a lot -- when it comes to violent murder cases.
PHILLIPS: Is this considered tough, this sentence?
FEYERICK: It is -- it is probably a fair sentence based on all of the issues. One thing that was raised during the hearing, and that is that, you know, Connecticut's state law says that a prisoner will receive the minimum time to effect rehabilitation. OK, what does that mean in English? Well, basically they say, you know, it's clear that the guy could rehabilitate himself, then he should be let out of prison sooner than later and the judge is required to sentence him to the least amount of time. So Michael Skakel tried making the point that I have been rehabilitated; I've spent my life helping other people. I've spent my life under the shadow of this crime. I couldn't hold a job; my marriage dissolved. You know, when my son was born, we lost our insurance because I had no work. I am not a billionaire's son. I don't have any money. So he tried to make the point that through that all, he's tried to really do the best job that he could do, and make it work. So is he rehabilitated? He thinks so. His lawyers think so. Under those guidelines, 20 years, he's got some time to think about how rehabilitated he is, I guess.
PHILLIPS: Deborah, I know you came to us as soon you got this sentencing. You ran right to the camera for us. And you probably didn't have a lot of time to talk with the Moxley family, but do you know if they're going to hold some type of news conference? Will we hear from them? Will we hear their reaction about what happened?
FEYERICK: Most likely, we will hear their reaction. They have been very good with the press and the media; they have given the press and the media a lot of credit for keeping this story in the news, and keeping the hope that they would go to trial. So even though it's a very rainy day here, we hope to get some sort of reaction, some sort of comment. As you mentioned, Stan Twardy, as you heard Stan Twardy mention, there is going to be a bail and a bond issue. And that's going on right now. Effectively because of this change in the law, the judge really does have more discretion now to say, you know what? I think we're going to let him out, pending this appeal; however, it's unlikely that that is going to happen. Kyra? PHILLIPS: All right. If you're just tuning in, you're watching breaking news now. Just a short time ago, Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for the murder of Martha Moxley. Addressing today's sentencing hearing, our Deborah Feyerick was telling us that Skakel broke down. He reasserted his innocence. Yesterday, the court denied his request to have his guilty verdict thrown out, and now just moments ago we have found out that Michael Skakel, indeed, was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. We're going to bring Stan Twardy back in, former U.S. attorney. He is there by Deborah Feyerick's side. He's been following the sentencing phase. Stan, are you surprised at all by this?
STAN TWARDY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: No. Not at all. I think 20 years, 25 years most of us are thinking that would be the ballpark in which the sentence would come down as a minimum. Clearly, the judge paid attention to what went on. There were voluminous sentencing documents that were filed with him, Deborah's alluded to those. A binder about this thick full of documents, letters, and the like from family members. Clearly, the defense lawyers here, Skakel's lawyers, put together a very solid case for sentencing. They kept the minimum down to 20 years, as opposed to 25 years, and with the life sentence on the top, and as I said, the judge indicated that it was no more than life, it's likely he will get out sometime after the ten-year period, depending on what the parole board rules.
PHILLIPS: Do you think Skakel and his lawyers discussed the possibility that he might come out and say to the judge, "I'm sorry. I did it. I believe in God now. I am a new man. I have changed my life around. Yes, I did it. I'm apologetic. But look, I've changed my life." Do you think that was even discussed as an option?
TWARDY: I doubt that was discussed as an option, because at that point, then everything he was doing with regard to the appeal would have become moot. At this point, his defense lawyers believe, I'm sure, that they have a strong case on appeal. There are a number of issues that have arisen during the course of this trial and even before the trial. We talked about some of them, I think, earlier. One: whether or not this case should have ever been transferred from the juvenile court to the adult court, where the case was tried. Whether or not the statute of limitations had expired. It was 25 years after the -- nearly 25 years after Martha Moxley's murder that Mr. Skakel was charged in this. You had the evidence that we talked about yesterday which had to do with the exculpatory evidence, the sketch that Skakel's lawyers claim that the government hadn't turned over to them. So there are a number of issues there that they have for appeal and if Mr. Skakel had come out and said, "I'm sorry, judge, I had done it, I apologize to God and to the Moxleys, then all those appellate issues would have gone out the window.
PHILLIPS: Do you think the notoriety of this case affected how many years he got?
TWARDY: No, I don't think the notoriety affected this. This -- Any judge who enters into a sentencing is going to be troubled by whatever he or she does because of the impact it has on the individual. And in this case, it was pointed out Mr. Skakel has a three-year-old child who is involved. On the other hand, you are dealing with a case in which a young girl the age of 15 was killed. And the court is going to be looking at what is going to be fair, and what's the signal that gets sent to others? That's a lot of what this is about, is what does society take away from this? Judge Kavanewsky has said, you know, 20 years in jail to life. Mr. Skakel is going to serve jail time.
PHILLIPS: You say that Skakel's statement touched the judge. Let's go into that a little bit more. What -- what do you mean by that?
TWARDY: Well, I think he did a wonderful job of navigating that -- that fine line, the shoals of not saying I did it, I'm sorry, Judge, therefore give me the minimum, but appealing to the judge on grounds of who Skakel is, the type of person he is, and what he is now, that, judge, even if you think I did commit the murder back in 1975, for the last 20 years, I have been clean. I've cleaned up my act, I've followed God, I have helped other individuals. That, I think, is something that was a very interesting message that was sent by Mr. Skakel, and I think one that the judge had to listen so because under the law in Connecticut, at the time, the jail sentence had to -- had to address the issue of rehabilitation. Is -- What did the individual who committed the crime need as far as jail time to be rehabilitated at the end of the day? That was the key issue.
PHILLIPS: So for Skakel and his attorneys, do you think his attorneys sat him down and said, "OK, this is Proper Remorse 101; this what is you need to say, this is what you need to do?" Or do you think he got up there and he just poured out his heart?
TWARDY: Well, I'm sure that his lawyers reviewed what he said. I'm sure that they had some input into it, but to be effective as Mr. Skakel was, it really has to come from the heart, and so I'm sure that he was a prime draftsman of this. Because he had to say words that he -- that would ring true with him as he said it. Again, I'm sure that the lawyers sat down and reviewed it with him before he did it, that it was not something that was done off the cuff, so to speak. But it was done, it was a prepared comment -- prepared comments that were done in conjunction with his lawyers.
PHILLIPS: Former U.S. attorney Stan Twardy. We appreciate your insight today, Stan. I'm sure we'll be talking a lot today. We appreciate it very much.
If you're just tuning in, breaking news at this hour, a decision in the Michael Skakel murder trial. A short time ago, a judge sentenced Skakel to 20 years to life in prison for the murder of Martha Moxley more than 25 years ago. The two were 15 years old at the time of that murder scene. As Deborah Feyerick joins us once again outside of the courthouse in Norwalk, Connecticut, we're going to bring her back in. I guess, Deborah, no one's really surprised.
FEYERICK: No. No one's surprised that he got prison time or the sentence that he did. There's been -- Speaking to several defense attorneys here, the feeling was that, yes, he would probably get somewhere in the range of 18 to 25 years, that was sort of the feeling on the street as it were. We do have a little bit more news right now: the judge has denied any sort of bail for Michael Skakel and that came down, again, the judge was given that option to rule whether he would be allowed out on appeal, but the judge has denied the bail. Michael Skakel, again, Kyra, just to get back to seeing him and watching him in court, he was just so visibly upset, and when he walked up to the podium, you know, the one thing that you heard, the whole courtroom went silent. And all you could really hear is sort of the clinking of his leg irons as he walked to the podium. Again, sort of underscoring the seriousness of the situation. Michael Skakel, who has been described as having a great sense of humor, as being lighthearted and really so emotional and so devastated by the situation that he found himself in. He even said, you know, I go to bed. I scream, "God, I've done everything you've asked. Why are you doing this to me?" So clearly, just somebody in emotional distress and devastated that he'll be away from his son for the amount of time that he'll be away.
PHILLIPS: What type of support did he have in that courtroom, Deborah?
FEYERICK: Good question, Kyra. He had a massive amount of support in the courtroom. His family, his brothers were there. He had aunts, uncles, friends from childhood, from -- not only from that, but from college as well. All of them just there to show that they love him and they're standing by him.
PHILLIPS: And his son?
FEYERICK: His son, though, his son was not there. His son is three years old. His son is -- is a bit too small. Now I want to go -- Jason Carroll was also in court along with me. And what was your impression? You were sitting very close to the Skakel family. What was their reaction when the sentence was read?
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you know, when Michael Skakel stood up and gave that very emotional statement, many of his family members were already in tears, so by the time it came for the judge to decide what the sentence would be, obviously, they were disappointed, many of them were already crying, so the tears continued at that point. So it would be very fair to say that many of them were extremely disappointed. At one point, even before the sentencing happened during the break, there was a moment when Michael Skakel had an opportunity actually to speak to some of his family members. They came over. Of course, they were not allowed to shake his hands for security reasons. A former teacher came over and said to him, "Good luck." And at one point, someone shouted out, "Michael, how do you feel?" And he said, "My God is with me." And you know, Deborah, as he stood there and eventually made his statement before sentencing was handed down, he also had several references to God. He said. "I pray every day. I pray to the Lord, and I ask him, why am I standing here? Why am I in the position that I'm facing today? And he said, I wish I could pray. I wish I could go to the Skakel family -- or go to the Moxley family and say to them, you know, I wish I could say to them, I wish there was some way someone could admit to this. He said that I can't do that because I didn't do it. I can't stand here in the eyes of God and do something like that. FEYERICK: Many references to God. And that is also very interesting, Jason. Is that just -- he came across as a very religious, a very spiritual man, and that's something that did not happen before during the course of this trial. And I think the jurors when several of them who I spoke to, you know, they said that Michael Skakel, he would make faces, he would grimace, he was passing notes. He did seem to be very involved in his own trial, but that never came out. And interestingly, you know, in hearing them speak, one thing that -- that Mickey Sherman said was that, "Well, the jury never got a chance to hear the real Michael Skakel." It would have been very interesting to see what they would have -- or how they would have reacted if, in fact, they had seen him today, seen him making this statement and being so moved, and saying, you know, as you mentioned, I wish I could admit I did this, that I could give the Moxleys some rest, but I can't because I can't -- what did he say? I can't bear false witness against others and against myself.
CARROLL: I think that's definitely a good point because obviously, when he made this statement in the courtroom today, it obviously had some impact on the court. I think that in some ways it even affected the judge, in some ways, but as you know in the very end, he said, "You obviously have shown no remorse in the very end of this. What you have done has bared sort of a great, serious affect on society, and therefore he had to hand down the sentence that he eventually handed down.
FEYERICK: Did you catch how the Moxleys reacted? I know that they were sitting a bit on the opposite side of the pew, and you were focused on the Skakels, who were right next to you.
CARROLL: I did -- I did manage to sort of lean forward so I could try to see how the Moxleys were reacting. They simply sat in their seats. They looked ahead, sort of nodded and just sort of listened. It was really the Skakels who were upset, the Skakel supporters who were obviously upset, who again were sitting just one row in front of me. Obviously very emotional about what had happened in the court.
FEYERICK: Did you see Michael Moxley's -- I'm sorry. Excuse me, please. Did you see Michael Skakel's reaction as he was led out of the courtroom? Did you see him being walked out with the prison guards?
CARROLL: I did not see him being led out at that moment. But there was one thing that struck me as he was being led in today. And that is, as he was being led in, the first thing that I saw as he looked over toward his family, his aunt as you know was sitting in the front row, she looked over and mouthed the words, "I love you." And then his brother, who was standing right in front of me, turned around, he opened up his jacket, and he was wearing a shirt that said, "Never give up." They knew what was going to happen at the end of the day. And I think, despite the emotional statement that Michael Skakel gave, I think he in a way knew, as well, what was going to happen at the end of the day, at the end of this court proceeding.
FEYERICK: The judge, Kyra, could not have given Michael Skakel anything less than ten years, just because that was the minimum that he was sentenced to. In effect what he did, the judge, is make sure that Michael Skakel will serve ten years, because he's given him this sentence, again, 20 years to life, but because of the way sentencing works here in Connecticut, Michael Skakel will be released, or at least eligible for parole in about half that time. Again, a lot of factors there. He's got to behave while he is in prison. There is -- there are outstanding appeals. There are new appeals that will soon be filed. You know, there's also the element that the Supreme Court has to rule on whether this should have been moved from juvenile to adult court. So a lot of things that are going on here. And the parole board could ultimately say, you know what? We're not going to give you parole and you're not going to be out in ten years. But the judge did make it pretty clear when he said "not more than life" that, in fact -- Let's take a look here at the screen, they are getting ready to move him. That is one of his prison guards, who was sitting in the courtroom, that larger prison garden in the dark shirt was in the jury box, actually, watching Michael Skakel as he gave his statement. But getting back to the judge, the judge by saying "no more than life" did send a clear message to the parole board, saying he thinks that the fair sentence is the minimum, that is the 20 years take into account good-time behavior, you've got about half of that. So the judge making sure that he would serve at least that amount of time.
CARROLL: And can I add something there? I notice the problem that we see there, that said that Skakel likely to get out in ten years. But you know, when you talk to some of the people in this courtroom, they say that the parole board here in the state of Connecticut is pretty tough. So I'm not sure that we can actually say that it's likely that he will get out as you say right there in ten years for good behavior. This Connecticut state parole board, pretty tough bunch.
FEYERICK: Right, exactly. And again, that's what Mickey Sherman said. Mickey Sherman said we cannot assume that just -- that there is sort of a "discount on the sentence," is what he called it. So, you know, there is 20 years that he's facing. Just to let you know some of his prison conditions, Michael Skakel is in a high-security facility. He is allowed to get visitors twice a week, some visitors every other weekend. Did the judge touch on any of that, on the conditions of confinement?
CARROLL: Not at that point. But just -- that raises an interesting point that I should have mentioned. At one point during the break when his -- when he was talking to his family, his family was already trying to make some sort of arrangements: How to get newspaper articles to him, how to get magazine subscriptions to him, as well, while he'll be behind bars. They were trying to make all the arrangements to try to make him as comfortable as possible, trying to keep a line of communication open, trying to keep him informed of what would be happening on the outside.
PHILLIPS: Deborah, Jason, I've got a question four guys: I'd asked you who was in the courtroom family-wise on behalf of Skakel. And -- Is it surprising to you, I guess I was surprised, that his three-year-old son wasn't there. Wouldn't this be sort of a last chance for him to hug his son? And, or -- Did the judge not allow children or babies in the courtroom? I mean, educate me on that. I was a bit shocked, I guess, that he wasn't there.
FEYERICK: Well, yes, and it's a very good question, Kyra. A lot of the courts don't allow children in just because it's very disruptive. If the children --- if the child misbehaves then, obviously, that can just, you know, have the court stop what it is they're doing. I don't think it necessarily would have played into the sympathies of the judge, because the judge knows what's at stake. He knows that, you know, Michael Skakel has a three-year-old son and that by sentencing him, he is effectively taking him away from that son. That was made very clear in the letters that were written on Michael Skakel's behalf.
It was made very clear in the seven or eight people that spoke, saying, you know, Michael Skakel is a good father. And Michael Skakel himself mentioned his son several times, you know, saying what a critical role he really had in his life, saying he is the one, you know, who was -- who raised him, he was the one who had given him baths, he's the one who has been there for him. And then even gave some instances where, he said, at one point the son turned to him and said, you know, "Mommy says only bad men go to prison. Are you a bad man?"
And Michael Skakel tried to explain it, again putting it in religious terms, saying, "Well, you know, there was a man, Jesus Christ, went to prison" and so then so the three-year-old son seemed to get the point. He said, "OK, let's go play in the sand box now." And I just thought that was a very poignant moment.
CARROLL: Very poignant. And also, right before that, he had also had indicated that he'd had a discussion with his son, saying, "Mommy hates me. Mommy hates you, too." Kyra, I think it's obvious that -- that Michael Skakel has had conversations with his son about what eventually would happen, about the fact that he was going to probably end up going to prison; and perhaps, and you know, at this point, I can just think that perhaps he didn't want his son to see him in court being upset, seeing the rest of the family members being upset. I would probably think that that may be one of the reasons why they didn't want to have him in court today.
FEYERICK: Also, you've got his hands and his feet shackled, although they did take the handcuffs off during the hearing. They had not done that yesterday, but then towards the end of the day yesterday, they only had his feet shackled. The same situation today. They did take the handcuffs off. Kyra?
PHILLIPS: So you think about the impact on his son, I mean, minimum ten years, maybe 20 to life in prison, I mean, those are the formal years for that little boy. And I know, Deborah, you asked Jason about the prison conditions, I'm curious. I want to know what type of rights he will have with regard to visitors. We don't know anything. FEYERICK: Well, here's -- here's the way it breaks down under Connecticut law, and especially at this high security prison. Now remember, Michael Skakel is at a prison where other murderers will be kept, basically, so he has all sort of the high security risks. He does have his own cell. An 8-by-10 cell.
The Department of Corrections said that is not special treatment. There are single cells, there are double cells. They've put him in a single cell. He can take several classes. There are -- what they call enrichment classes that he can take. He can enroll in different courses. There are common areas where he'll go. As for the visitors, this I was surprised to learn -- and that is there are only seven visitors who are allowed to put their name down on the list. He can get as many visits he wants from his lawyers, and there's no restriction on all of that. But only seven visits.
So it will be interesting to see who he sort of puts down. I'm sure his son, Kyra, will be on that list to come and visit. But it may have very well been traumatic for his son to see his dad in such a difficult position, sitting apart from all his family, sitting, you know, at this table, sitting with leg irons on, hearing the clink and the clatter of that chain. I mean, it was really jarring. It's one of those sounds that you just focus on right away. And I think publicly Michael Skakel didn't want his son to see him, perhaps, in quite that way.
Again, that's just a guess on my part. I haven't spoken to him, so I don't want to allege any more information than I actually do have, but certainly, that would have been a strong reason as to why not to bring him to court that day. Jason, what else did you notice about the family and sort of what they were doing? Or did they wait as he was taken out of the court?
CARROLL: Well, again, as I came out., I didn't actually see him being taken out of the court, but it was, what they tried to do, at every given opportunity, they tried to --
FEYERICK: Here he comes, guys. Here comes Michael Skakel right now. Can you see the video?
PHILLIPS: Yes. He is being --
FEYERICK: He's back in his prison uniform.
CARROLL: Changed out of his suit. Back in a prison uniform that he was in when he first came to the court early this morning.
PHILLIPS: Is he receiving any special treatment with regard to transport? Is this normal procedure in Connecticut?
FEYERICK: Yes. It is normal -- It is normal procedure. And the Department of Corrections has been very careful about that. There were some charges that he was being treated better than other prisoners. The Department of Corrections sort of ruled that out very quickly and said, no, he's being treated as any high-security prisoner would be treated. Just to indicate, there -- the way the prison system works, you can rate them at a scale of one to five, five being the prison with the highest degree of security. Michael Skakel is at level four. And that's where he's going to be returning to now. That's likely where he will stay. There are certain reasons why he could be moved to a different facility, but again, the Department of Corrections has the say over that. So they'll kind of judge how he is doing at Garner Correctional Facility, which is where he's being held.
PHILLIPS: And Deb, you and Jason...
PHILLIPS: Yes, go ahead, Jason.
CARROLL: Kyra, I was just going to say, if I could rewind for just a quick moment here. Being the courtroom observer, because as you know, Deborah Feyerick has been out here day in and day out every day, but something struck me yesterday as being somewhat awkward, and it wasn't just awkward for those of us sitting in the courtroom, but obviously, for the families on both sides. The way that this whole thing was sort of laid out, the Skakel family, as Deborah knows, sits in one row, in the same row as the Moxley family. And the way that the courtroom is laid out, I'm sitting one row behind them. Yesterday, when we had some of the Skakel family get up, and the Moxley family comes -- come up to the front of the courtroom and give their statement, in order for the Moxley family to get there, they literally had to walk down this long row. The Skakel family then had to sort of move, get up, step aside, so Dorothy Moxley could come through, John Moxley could come through. An incredibly awkward moment, because as, for instance, Dorothy Moxley came through, and then went up to the front, and then the Skakels had to sit down, you could see how uncomfortable it was for all that were involved. And actually, when Dorothy Moxley had to -- had to go up to the front of the courtroom and make her statement, she literally had to just about brush past Michael Skakel, did she not, as she went up to make her statement?
CARROLL: And the way that -- as the whole thing was sort of unveiling and happening, a lot of us were sort of sitting there, and even some of those in the Skakel family were just saying, Well, could that have been done in a different way? Very uncomfortable moment as all this was sort of going down.
PHILLIPS: Jason, you wonder if Michael Skakel, a member of the Kennedy family, is this a man that can survive time in prison?
CARROLL: Well, I guess, he's probably going to do what he's been doing all along, which is turning to God, Deborah. That's what he said.
FEYERICK: Yes, absolutely. He said, you know, "Whatever my sentence is, I accept it in God's name." I just -- very quickly, I know we don't have a lot of time, but I've just been handed a letter that apparently Ethel Skakel wrote on behalf of Michael. I'm sorry -- that Ethel Kennedy wrote on behalf of Michael Skakel. It said -- she says, "With a heavy heart, yet with hope born of the morning sun, I write to ask that your compassion will tip the scales in your decision regarding my nephew." So again, sort of a last moment letter. It's handwritten. Several pages as you can see. Michael Skakel there. An older picture. His hair longer. His face a little ruddier. He was a little heavier at that time. He has definitely lost weight in prison. John Moxley said, boy, after seeing him yesterday, said, if that's what two years of prison is like, then -- I'm sorry, two months of prison is like, then, you know, he said he never wants to go to prison, John Moxley said. So that's where we are right now. Twenty years to life, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Deborah Feyerick and Jason Carroll, thank you both so much. Great job covering the past couple of days and bringing us the insights from all of the players. Once again, if you're just tuning in, breaking news: just a short time, you're seeing video here of Michael Skakel being led out of the courtroom back into the van, headed for jail. Michael Skakel sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for the murder of Martha Moxley. He addressed the court today at the sentencing hearing. He broke down, he reasserted his innocence, said he's a man of God. He accepts this sentence, and that God is protecting him. And, you know, yesterday the court denied his request to have his guilty verdict thrown out. Now Michael Skakel heads to prison.
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