Interesting Development In The Skakel Appeal

Only six justices were on the panel last week when the Connecticut Supreme Court heard oral argument in the Michael Skakel habeas appeal, in which Skakel seeks a new trial based on the purported failure of his trial counsel (Mickey Sherman) to provide a constitutionally adequate defense.  The Chief Justice recused herself, so the panel consisted of Justices Palmer, Zarella, McDonald, Espinosa, Robinson and Senior Justice Vertefeuille.

For reasons unknown, Justice Eveleigh was not on the panel last week.  The Supreme Court, however, has now added him to the panel.  That suggests (but does not necessarily mean) that the initial vote of the justices when they conferenced immediately after oral argument was 3-3 and that Justice Eveleigh was added to the panel to break the tie.  In other words, three justices would have affirmed the judgment of the habeas court (Bishop, JTR), which found in favor of Mr. Skakel’s Sixth Amendment ineffective assistance of counsel claim, and three justices would have reversed that judgment.

Of course, we won’t know for sure whether this hypothesis is correct until the Court issues an opinion, which will likely take at least several months.  Stay tuned.

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