Skakel Trial Update: The Siblings Take the Stand

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Since the Michael Skakel trial began two and a half weeks ago, his siblings — Stephen, Julie, and Rushton Jr. — have steadfastly supported their brother, accused of murdering their 15-year-old neighbor, Martha Moxley, in 1975 outside her Greenwich home. The group, which each day eats lunch at a local saloon-style restaurant and never speaks to the press, has created a kind of protective, mental barrier between Michael and his accusers, in particular the Moxley family, which sits in the courtroom just a few yards away.

But the silence was broken yesterday as the jury for the first time heard from two of Skakel's seven siblings. Rushton Jr., known mainly to court-watchers for his enormous, brown moustache, took the stand as a defense witness, as did another Skakel brother, David and their cousin James Dowdle. Their testimony about the night of the murder closely resembled Michael's assertion that he was not at the murder scene at the time investigators believe Moxley was killed. Michael says he drove with Dowdle, along with brothers Rushton and John from his home to Dowdle's mansion about 20 miles away and watched television. Michael says they left his home about 9:30 p.m. and returned around 11 p.m. Forensic experts say Moxley was bludgeoned to death with a golf club about 10 p.m., although she may have died as late as 1 a.m. the next morning.

But both Rushton and Dowdle's recollection of other details about the time of the murder were vague and contradictory. "I don't have any recall of the commotion," said Rushton about police being at the murder scene after the body was found. Dowdle couldn't remember if he drove or used some other mode of transport to go to a distant club for dinner on the night of the murder. Dowdle also said he wasn't sure he went to Michael's home in Windham, New York, the day after Martha was killed. That runs contrary to testimony from Skakel live-in tutor Kenneth Littleton, who said Dowdle was one of a group taken to the house after the slaying. But their accounts of their trip on the night of the murder to Dowdle's home and what they did there were almost identical. "Rucky drove," said Dowdle. Both said they watched Monty Python.

Up today: Julie Skakel, a thickset blonde-haired court fixture. In the first week of the trial, a friend of hers had contradicted Michael's alibi by saying he never left home the night of the murder.