Kennedy Cousin Michael Skakel Granted $1.2 Million Bail

Michael Skakel

Hartford Courant/MCT/Landov

updated 11/21/2013 AT 12:15 PM ET

originally published 11/21/2013 AT 12:55 PM ET

Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel was granted bail Thursday and expected to be released from prison while prosecutors in Connecticut appeal a ruling giving him a new trial in the 1975 slaying of neighbor Martha Moxley.

Skakel, the 53-year-old nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel, touched his hand to his chest and looked back at his supporters in the courtroom, his brothers among them, as the judge set bail at $1.2 million. He has been in prison more than 11 years on a sentence of 20 years to life but his lawyers said bail would be posted immediately – meaning that he would be freed shortly after the hearing in Stamford Superior Court.

As conditions of the bail, the judge ordered that Skakel live in Connecticut and wear a GPS tracking device. His lawyer said moments after the hearing ended that Skakel was “very happy” about the outcome.

A judge ruled last month that Skakel’s trial attorney, Michael Sherman, failed to adequately represent Skakel in 2002 when he was convicted in Moxley’s bludgeoning with a golf club in Greenwich when they were both 15. Judge Thomas Bishop said Sherman failed to locate a witness who backed up Skakel’s alibi that he was at his cousin’s house the night of the murder and failed to find a man who challenged a star witness’s claim that Skakel confessed.

“This is the first step in correcting a terrible wrong,” the Skakel family said in a statement. “We look forward to Michael being vindicated and justice finally being served.”

Outside court, Moxley’s brother, John, and mother, Dorthy, said their family was disappointed with the bail decision.

Robert Kennedy Jr., who campaigned to overturn Skakel’s conviction, had said this week that he felt “pure joy” that his cousin was expected to be released. Skakel has seen his son only a handful of times since he was sent to prison, he said.

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