The Skakel Trial: The Case of the Tutor's 'Confession'

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Kenneth Littleton testifies in the murder trial of Michael Skakel

With jurors in the trial of Michael Skakel excused for a three-day weekend, Kenneth Littleton sat stoically in the witness box Friday for a special hearing, watching a 10-year-old videotape of himself being played on a television monitor. On the tape, the former live-in tutor to the Skakel family was being interviewed by a forensic psychiatrist about an alleged confession Littleton had made to his ex-wife Mary Baker about the murder of Martha Moxley, a 15-year-old found beaten to death in 1975 outside her Greenwich, Connecticut home.

"Um, I was, had, been drinking heavily, was psychotic, and was in the back of the car. It's kind of frightening. This is when I said 'I did it.' She (Baker) heard me. I've looked at myself from all sorts of angles, whether I possibly could have done this. I was in the bottom of a bottle, looking around and imagining what happened, and placed myself in the spot." As it would turn out, however, the very memory of that confession had been suggested by the police to his ex-wife as a ploy to get what they hoped would be a true confession.

Littleton's confession drama goes back to 1992 and a room in a Howard Johnson Hotel in Boston where Baker met with her ex-husband to talk about a prior car trip. Investigators had convinced Baker to wear a recording device to record the potential "confession." She told the court on Friday that she lied at the prompting of the investigators, telling Littleton he had once before admitted to the murder during the car trip in 1984 when he had blacked out from being drunk.

According to the transcript of the hotel conversation being used as evidence at the trial, Baker began by saying her ex-husband had told her about his "Martha Moxley secret."

Littleton: "When in, on that trip?"

Baker: "Yes, when we were going by Connecticut. You remember anything about that?"

Littleton: "Um, I was blacked out from?"

Baker: "No, not blacked out, do you remember anything about what you told me?"

Littleton: "Um, I told you a story many times. I don't remember, um, a particular version that I told you that time."

Baker: "You were worrying about some hunting trip that you went on and you were, ah, saying, you know, I hope they don't, they don't find it. I hope they don't find, you know, my pants. I um, I didn't do it. I, it was an accident and all the rest of it."

Littleton: "I said that?"

Littleton, 50, a manic depressive whose monotone, prescription-drug-affected speech is now slower than that shown on the tape, is testifying at the trial as a "third party suspect." He had been granted immunity in exchange for giving evidence against Ethel Kennedy's nephew Michael Skakel at a 1998 grand jury inquiry. Skakel's defense attorney Michael Sherman hopes that by presenting evidence that Littleton may have had a hand in the murder, there will be doubt cast among the jury regarding the alleged guilt of his client. The prosecution is opposed to any trial testimony about Littleton being a suspect. Now Judge John Kavanewsky will decide on a question by question basis how much of the ex-tutor's "confession" can be admitted as evidence in court.

Skakel, 41, who faces life in prison if found guilty of murdering his neighbor Moxley, was transfixed yesterday in court. His eyes darted back and forth between his attorney and Littleton during the question and answer exchanges. Sherman, armed with the videotape, attempted to show that Littleton did in fact admit to the murder. "You did say, you did it?" asked Sherman. "Correct," replied Littleton. Sherman: "Because she (Mary Baker) told you, you did?" "Correct," came the reply. Sherman: "Why would you do that?" Littleton: "I don't know."

Baker told the judge on Friday that she was surprised when investigators turned up at her Ottawa, Canada, home and told her Littleton was a suspect in the killing. She said she agreed to wear the recording device and help them because it would "bring closure" to the Moxley family. "For me, it felt like the right thing to do," she said.

Littleton and his "confession" will be on the stand once more on Monday — this time with the jury watching too.