Yesterday, the Honorable Thomas Bishop, a sitting judge of the Superior Court of the State of Connecticut, issued a thoughtful, and comprehensive, 136 page opinion granting Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel a new trial on charges that he murdered Martha Moxley in 1975. In finding that Mr. Skakel's trial attorney had rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance to him sufficient to require a new trial, Judge Bishop offered these cogent observations:
The defense of a serious felony prosecution requires attention to detail, an energetic investigation and a coherent plan of defense capable executed. Trial counsel’s failures in each of these areas of representation were significant and, ultimately, fatal to a constitutionally adequate defense. As a consequence of trial counsel’s failures as stated, the state procured a judgment of conviction that lacks reliability. Although defense counsel’s errors of judgment and execution are not the fault of the state, a defendant’s constitutional right to adequate representation cannot be overshadowed by the inconvenience and financial and emotional cost of a new trial. To conclude otherwise would be to elevate expediency over the constitutional rights we cherish.
Compare this decision, with the opinion rendered by the New Jersey Supreme Court in State v. Miller, discussed in a previous post on this blog, and sharply criticized by other legal commentators. Michael Skakel, with all the resources available to him as a member of the Kennedy family, did not receive constitutionally effective assistance of counsel, while, according to the New Jersey Supreme Court, Terrence Miller, who met his attorney an hour before his trial, did. Judge Bishop's opinion in Skakel explaining what the right to constitutionally effective counsel means, underscores how wrong our New Jersey Supreme Court was in the Miller case.
The postings on this blog were created for general informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice or a solicitation to provide legal services. Although we attempt to ensure that the postings are complete, accurate, and up to date, we assume no responsibility for their completeness, accuracy, or timeliness. The information in this blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel.
This blog may contain links to independent third party websites and services, including social media. We provide these links for your convenience, and you access them at your own risk. We have no control over and do not monitor the content or policies (including privacy policies) of these third-party websites and have no responsibility for, and no liability with respect to, their content, accuracy, or reliability. Unless expressly stated, we do not endorse any of the linked websites or any product, service, or publication referenced herein or therein. We will remove a link to any site from this blog upon request of the linked entity.
We grant permission to readers to link to this blog so long as this blog is not misrepresented. This site is not sponsored or associated with any other site unless so identified.
If you wish for Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, P.A., to consider representing you, please obtain contact information from the Contact Us area of this blog or go to the firm’s website at www.wilentz.com. One of our lawyers will be happy to discuss the possibility of representation with you. However, the authors of Wilentz blogs are licensed only in New Jersey and/or New York and do not wish to represent anyone who viewed this site in a state where the site fails to comply with all laws and ethical rules of that state.