TODAY   |  October 24, 2013

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: ‘Michael Skakel is innocent’

RFK Jr., who has long been an advocate for Skakel’s innocence in the murder of 15-year-old Martha Moxley, tells TODAY’s Matt Lauer he believes the new trial granted by a Conn. judge will set his cousin free.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> robert f. kennedy , jr. has long maintained his cousin's innocence. he is with us now from san francisco . good to see you.

>> good morning, thanks, for having me.

>> a lot of people are stunned. a lot of defendants have tried to get convictions overturned based on the incompetence of the defense attorney . it almost never works. what is your reaction to this rule something.

>> we are thrilled with the ruling and i think that judge bishop was right. he wrote a very long, lengthy opinion which, and he is a very respected judge. michael skakel is innocent. michael skakel is 11 miles away with five eyewitnesses when this mour this murder occurred. one problem is his crime is he had very, very poor representation and nicky, unfortunately, did not call those witness, that's one mistake. another critical mistang. he made many, many others, one critical mistake is that one witness against michael who said that michael had confessed to him was a man named gregory coleman two actually died of a heroin overdose before trial. he claimed in the evidentiary hearing that there were three witnesses at the time that michael confessed. nicky sherman never bothered to call those people or to make any efforts to find them when michael 's new attorneys, his appeal attorneys tried to find them. they found them within two days and all three of them said that what gregory coleman said was a total lie, that gregory coleman was a pathological liar and he was a heroin addict and that he was, that the only reason that he was saying, making these statements was to collect the award.

>> robert, you have long held that your cousin is innocent. you wrote a lengthy article the year after his conviction. you have been asked over the years, many times, are you doing this simply bus of family ties and your answer to that is absolutely not. you said many people ask me why i would publicly defend him to enhance my representation. i am certain he is innocent. this ruling, of course, leaves us with the question, if your cousin is innocent, who killed martha moxley ?

>> well, that is a good question and there were at the time of the trial many suspects, but sense i wrote that article following that article, i was approached by somebody who asked me to call a man named tobiy bryant, who is the cousin of basketball player kobe broivenlt when i tauld toby bryant. he said to me in florida, he said i have been waiting for this call for 27 years. and he told me that he had been there the night that martha moxley was could and he brought with him from new york city two boys who were gangster-type kids, one of them was very, very big.

>> let me just say in fairness, robert, in october of that year, a supreme court judge denied request for a new trial saying, in part the testimony of this man you are talking about was not credible.

>> well, he never heard the testimony of that man. there were many, many appeals and i think that the rulings in those appeals were probably wrong, but, you know, the justice system once there is a conviction is very, very reluctant to reverse that conviction. there is a huge barrier to reversing a conviction in a jury trial in which so much work has been done to achieve that convex. in this case, the initial conviction was wrong and it was wrong because michael had a -- had very, very poor representation and as judge bishop outlines in 136 page opinion, those are just two of the many mistakes.

>> let's end on something es you wrote in that article, michael skakel me cousin, helped me get sobener 1983 , we attended hundreds of alcohol recovery meeting itself together, in that context and others, we shared our deepest feelings, i sometimes spend two or three weekends in his company, like everyone else that knows him, i love him. if he were guilty i would have testified against him. he is not. do you think he would eventually be freed in this case?

>> i know if he gets into the trial, he will definitely be freed. he should have been freed in the first trial t. evidence against him and the police work. it was just, there was no credible evidence against him that couldn't have been challenged by much stronger evidence and if he gets another trial, he's got good lawyers now. there is no way in the world he will be convicted.

>> robert f. kennedy , jr. nice to see you. thanks, for your time, i appreciate it.

>> i can't imagine this case continues more than three decades after she died. this happened in 1975 in greenwich, connecticut. i graduated high school in 1975 and knew some of the people involved here. this was a major story. it continues today.

>> when i worked in connecticut, we covered the trial. it's heart breaking to think there is still no real answer.

>> and i can't say how extraordinarily rare it is for a judge to grant a trial on this basis. we will continue to follow the