HARTFORD, Conn. — Michael Skakel, convicted in 2002 and cleared years later of the grisly murder of a neighbor in Greenwich’s exclusive Belle Haven section, moved in with an elderly aunt and considered taking a job as a chauffeur during the years state prosecutors have spent deciding whether to retry him.

A few details about Skakel’s existence in legal limbo – his murder conviction was reversed in 2013 but the state has been silent on whether to mount a second trial – were revealed Monday morning in legal documents the state Judicial Branch was ordered to release as the result of The Hartford Courant’s challenge of a state law sealing the prosecution files of some minors accused of the most serious felonies.

Skakel is 59 years old, but since he was 15 and a minor when his 15-year-old neighbor Martha Moxley was beaten to death with one of his mother’s golf clubs, all records of his case – one of the most intensively covered murder cases in U.S. history – were sealed on Oct. 1, 2019, the effective date of the new state law. Advocates pushed the new law as part of a package of reforms designed to insulate 15-, 16- and 17-year-old teens accused of crimes like murder, rape and robbery from the criminal justice system.

At the time of the killing, Skakel was a student at The Elan School in Maine, and classmates had testified at his trial that he confessed to them about the killing while at the school. Elan, which was a private school for troubled teens in Poland, closed in 2011.

The judicial branch on Monday also made public files on 109 other cases of teens, whose records had been sealed after the new law’s effective date. No detailed information was immediately available about those cases.

A federal court on ordered the state judiciary to open courtrooms and unseal the case records of teenagers charged with the most serious felonies in a preliminary ruling for the Courant, which argues that the new law illegally bars the public from court proceedings.

U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea concluded the law violates first amendment rights of access to the courts by sealing cases of teens charged as adults in Superior Court. The law, the Juvenile Transfer Act, was written to seal records and close courtrooms when the cases against the teens are transferred from juvenile to adult court.

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Michael Skakel leaves the Connecticut Supreme Court on Feb. 24, 2016. Skakel was convicted in 2002 in the 1975 bludgeoning death of his neighbor Martha Moxley when they were both 15 years old. The state supreme court later upheld a lower court decision vacating the conviction. Jessica Hill/Associated Press file

Finding that the newspaper is likely to prevail in its challenge, Shea ordered the state Judicial Branch to unseal all cases transferred since the law’s effective date and to make public all cases transferred to adult court in the future. He postponed parts of the order for a month to give advocates for the teens an opportunity to argue individually against unsealing.

The Judicial Branch appealed Shea’s order to the U.S. Court of Appeals a week ago but released the materials covered by the order today, regardless of the appeal.

The only additions to Skakel’s prosecution file since last October are three motions in which he asks the Superior Court to ease restrictions on his ability to travel out of the state. Skakel ultimately failed and continues to be permitted out of state travel only after seeking permission from state judicial authorities and providing an advance itinerary.

Skakel argued in the requests that he need to be able to travel on short notice to drive a seriously ill brother to out-of-state medical appointments, run errands and otherwise care for his elderly aunt, work as a chauffeur for a New York car service and visit his son, a college student in New York.

The records show Skakel was living in New Canaan with his aunt at the time the new law took effect.

He has been free on $1.2 million bond since late November 2013, when Senior Judge Thomas Bishop ruled on a habeas corpus petition that Skakel’s lawyer at his trial in 2002 mounted such an ineffective defense that the conviction could not be trusted, violating Skakel’s right to a fair trial. Skakel was allowed to travel upon his release but needs to obtain prior approval from judicial authorities – a process Skakel said in the legal filings could take days.

He had been in prison for 11 years.

In May 2018, the state Supreme Court affirmed Bishop and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by the state.

In late October, Skakel lawyers Michael Fitzpatrick and Hubert Santos – who won reversal of the conviction and prevailed at the Supreme Court – detailed why he needed to travel on short notice. The legal filing suggest Skakel’s fortunes had plummeted since his youth in Belle Haven, living in a mansion with live-in help and being driven by the family chauffeur to sessions with his Manhattan therapist.

“Obtaining gainful employment has been very difficult for Mr. Skakel because of his years of imprisonment, the stigma of the case, and the uncertainty of whether the state will retry him,” the lawyers wrote. “Recently he was presented with the opportunity to work as a chauffeur for JD’s Car Service, Inc. of Brewster, New York.”

He would have required short notice travel around the northeast, the legal filing said. A judge denied Skakel’s request, and there is nothing in the file to suggest what happened to the job offer.

He listed additional reasons for travel to New York. He wanted to participate in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in Westchester County, “where he is far less recognized.” He wanted to drop in on his son occasionally at a New York university. A brother needed to be driven to Long Island for frequent medical treatment. And he said errands for his elderly aunt, whose home is near the New York border, often required trips to that state.

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