A Connecticut judge ruled Wednesday that Michael Skakel, a convicted killer and cousin of the Kennedys, received insufficient legal counsel during his first trial and granted him a new one.
Skakel was convicted in 2002 of murdering former neighbor Martha Moxley in 1975, when they were both 15. The murder weapon was allegedly a golf club that belonged to Skakel's mother.
Moxley attended a party at the Skakel home on the night she died and was dating Skakel's brother.
The 2002 conviction came after Skakel admitted in a 1997 book proposal that he masturbated in a tree near the Moxley home on the night of the murder. His words, in addition to other testimony by witnesses, undermined his alibi that he was with other boys earlier in the night and that he hadn't left the home when they returned from a friend's house.
A post-trial brief filed by prosecutors in 2007 recounts Skakel's audiotaped admissions:
"He claimed he was drunk and 'couldn't get it up' so he thought 'f--- this ... Martha likes me, I'll go, I'll go get a kiss from Martha.'
He claimed he went to the Moxley house, climbed a tree and masturbated. As he climbed down the tree and headed for home, he stated that something told him not to go through the dark oval section in their front lawn.
He began to 'chuck' rocks into the oval, saying, 'Come on motherf-----, I'll kick your a--.' As he ran home, Michael said he was worried that someone had seen him 'jerking off.'
Michael described how he woke the next morning (for him a school day) to Mrs. Moxley saying, 'Michael, have you seen Martha?' He claimed he was still high and a little drunk from the night before. He stated he remembered thinking:
'Oh my God, did they see me last night? And I'm like, I don't know, I'm like, and I remember just having a feeling of panic. Like 'oh s---.' You know. Like my worry of what I went to bed with, like may ... I don't know, you know what I mean, I just had, I had a feeling of panic.'"
In all, the prosecutors said, "the jury heard more than a dozen incriminatory statements [Skakel] had made over the years." Among those were conflicting reports from the night of the murder about where he was and his alleged admission to a family chauffeur in 1977 "that he had done something very bad and he had to either kill himself or get out of the country." Other witnesses said Skakel told them he was drunk and couldn't recall what happened that night.
Previous bids for a retrial were rejected, but Connecticut appellate Judge Thomas Bishop on Wednesday ruled Skakel's conviction "lacks reliability" because alleged failures by his former attorney, Michael Sherman, were "fatal to a constitutionally adequate defense."
Some relatives are pleased that Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow Ethel, is getting another shot.
"[Sherman] was pre-occupied with the glitter and celebrity," Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a particular zealous defender of his cousin, told ABC News. "He said to the bar association he was having fun on this case. A man's life was at stake."