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.
Last week prosecutors filed their opening appellate brief in an effort to persuade the Connecticut Supreme Court to reverse a trial court’s judgment that Michael Skakel’s former attorney, Michael “Mickey” Sherman, did not provide a constitutionally adequate defense at Skakel’s murder trial. Not surprisingly, the gist of the state’s argument is that the trial judge improperly “second guessed” Sherman’s defense tactics.
According to the Supreme Court’s electronic docket, Skakel’s opposition brief is due on September 8, 2014, although I wouldn’t be surprised if his attorneys’ ask for an extension of time; the state’s opening brief is 247 pages long!
As any conscious person knows, Michael Skakel was recently released from prison on bail. His release follows Superior Court judge Tom Bishop’s decision that Skakel’s defense lawyer did not provide a constitutionally adequate defense during Skakel’s trial for the murder of Martha Moxley. Read the rest of this entry »
Judge Trial Referee Thomas Bishop yesterday issued his highly anticipated decision in the Michael Skakel habeas case, finding that Skakel’s former attorney, Mickey Sherman, failed to provide a constitutionally adequate defense at Skakel’s 2002 trial for the murder of Martha Moxley in 1975.
The State has indicated that it will appeal Judge Bishop’s decision, and Skakel’s attorneys have filed a motion seeking his release on bail pending a new trial in the case.