Skakel's Punishment Began With The Wait

The Hartford Courant

For Michael Skakel, the punishment began with the wait.At 10:35 a.m., the lawyers were told the jury had reached a verdict. But they had no clue what that verdict was.

Skakel stood, even though the judge had yet to take the bench and the jury was still in its deliberations room. Defense attorney Mickey Sherman rubbed his back.

Bodyguard Kris Steele stepped forward and squeezed his shoulder. The touching stopped, and Skakel stood alone with his thoughts, swaying back and forth, eyes fixed on the empty jury box, his hands clasped behind him.

His expression was contemplative, and for minutes his eyes did not leave that jury box, as if he could will a verdict if he stared long enough and did not blink.

His lips were pursed. The packed courtroom was silent save for a few murmurings. Skakel's obvious anticipation made the wait seem longer.

At the prosecution table, Jonathan Benedict signed paperwork as if he were waiting for just another note.

Susann Gill alternately clasped her hands or buried her face in them.

Skakel finally turned from the jury box and braced his hands on the defense table, leaning over it. Fifteen minutes had now passed. He sunk into his chair and buried his face into his crossed arms. Behind him, Sherman paced back and forth, back and forth. Skakel stood again, lips pursed, again gazing at the empty jury box, face more florid than it had been.

Judge John F. Kavanewsky Jr. suddenly appeared and took the bench at 10:58 as a judicial marshall cried, “All rise.'' Even though all were now standing, Skakel was more alone than ever.

“The jury has reached a verdict,'' Kavanewsky said for the record. “Bring the panel in.''

Skakel stood, as is customary for the lawyers and defendant when the jury is brought in. He swiftly wiped his mouth.

The jurors then filed into the courtroom. Now they wore the fixed expressions. They looked at no one. Telegraphed nothing. Only a mistrial based on a deadlock had been ruled out. Anything was possible.

Skakel faced them, lips pursed, his expression as fixed as a mask. It would remain so.

The jury foreman, Kevin Cambra, breathed the single word, “Guilty,'' into the courtroom. Gasps and cries were instant.

Skakel didn't flinch.

Sherman requested that each juror be polled. Each was stalwart as he or she stood and was asked, “Is it your verdict that Michael Skakel is guilty of the crime of murder?'' Equally stalwart when they affirmed that it was. No juror cried or appeared distraught.

Kavanewsky asked the lawyers if there was anything further before he dismissed the jury.

“I'd like to say something,'' Skakel replied.“No,'' Kavanewsky ordered, and Skakel said nothing more.

The jurors filed from the courtroom at 11:06 a.m., and later left the courthouse without comment.

At 11:09, after brief arguments about whether Skakel would be allowed to remain free on an appeal, Kavanewsky ordered marshalls to take him into custody.

Skakel again clasped his hands behind his back, and the metal whine of handcuffs tightening on his wrists was audible to all.

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