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Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel slams lawyer during murder conviction appeal

Jason Rearick / AP

Michael Skakel attacked the lawyer who represented him at his original trial for murder when he testified at an appeal hearing on Thursday.

VERNON, Conn. -- Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel on Thursday slammed the attorney who represented him at his murder trial, portraying an overly confident lawyer basking in the limelight while making fundamental mistakes.

In his latest appeal, Skakel argued trial attorney Michael Sherman failed to competently defend him when he was convicted in 2002 of killing his Greenwich neighbor in 1975 when they were both 15.

Skakel blamed Sherman for making poor jury picks and failing to track down and call witnesses, including singer Michael Bolton and actor Harrison Ford.

Skakel, the 52-year-old nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel Kennedy, is serving 20 years to life for the golf club bludgeoning of Martha Moxley.

Skakel, who did not testify at his trial, seemed eager to unload as he took the witness stand.

Skakel said Sherman told him that he would never go to trial, saying, "you'll never see the inside of a courtroom."

When he did, he said, Sherman put a police officer and a woman whose friend's mother knew the victim's mother on the jury despite his objections.

Skakel said Sherman took photos of the judge and jury with a pen camera and had him sign an autograph.

Ten years into a 20-years-to-life sentence, Michael Skakel, Robert F. Kennedy's nephew who was convicted for the 1975 killing of neighbor Martha Moxley will be asking a parole board to set him free. He continues to say he is innocent of any wrongdoing. NBC's Katy Tur reports.

"I was flabbergasted at the nonchalant attitude," he said.

He said Sherman did not give him a chance to review evidence in the case. When Sherman visited Skakel at his Florida home, they would mostly talk about money and golf, Skakel said.

"He wanted a war chest. He said we needed $5 million bucks," he said.

Skakel's current attorney argues that Sherman had significant financial troubles at the time and didn't devote enough money to defend the case.

Sherman says he did all he could to prevent Skakel's conviction. Sherman sat with his arms crossed as Skakel testified and is due to take the stand Friday to respond to Skakel's claims.

Hatfields and McCoys
Skakel said he was adamant that Sherman track down other former classmates to challenge a claim that he confessed to the crime while attending a reform school in Maine in the late 1970s, but Sherman failed to find them.

One classmate, Gregory Coleman, testified that Skakel confessed to killing Moxley and said he would get away with murder because "I'm a Kennedy."

Skakel said Sherman failed to use an argument that a Skakel would never brag about being a Kennedy "because the Kennedys and the Skakels are much like the Hatfields and the McCoys."

Skakel said he demanded Sherman hire an expert to highlight brutal conditions at the reform school but Sherman didn't.

"It was imperative because there's no logical way a person who has never been there could possibly comprehend the magnitude of the insanity that went on in such a place," Skakel said. "It was a mad house."

Skakel said that Sherman had visited him in prison after his conviction and admitted messing up his jury picks.

Sherman told him about a dinner he had with a former classmate from the reform school, which had been attended by Ford and Bolton. Sherman said the classmate admitted that Skakel never confessed while at the reform school, Skalel said.

He said Sherman could have called Ford and Bolton to testify.

Skakel's defense also argues that Sherman ignored a claim by a former classmate of Skakel's that implicated two other men in the killing.

Dorthy Moxley, the victim's mother, has attended the trial every day and takes notes while listening with the aid of a hearing device.

"I don't think you can believe much of what he says," she said.

Related:

Kennedy nephew Michael Skakel denied parole in 1975 murder