Updated 11:02 p.m., Wednesday, October 24, 2012
SUFFIELD -- Two walls of glass and metal.
They were all that separated Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel -- convicted of the brutal 1975 murder of Greenwich teenager Martha Moxley -- from a room filled with security guards, news reporters, and members of two families still showing pain that decades has not healed.
It was shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday, and Skakel, 52, waited behind the glass walls for the return of three members of the state's Board of Pardons and Paroles who were deliberating in private to decide his fate.
Behind those glass walls in the McDougall-Walker Correctional Institution, Skakel, thick in the chest, with thinning gray hair and clad in tan prison clothes, sat and chatted with his attorney, Hope Seeley.
His mouth moved soundlessly. A smile curled on his lips. A moment later, his face became stoic as he stared into the distance.
In that distance was Michael Skakel's freedom.
No one but Seeley and Skakel knew what was said behind those walls. But even Skakel probably knew what was coming.
In short order, the board declined his request for parole, citing the impact of the murder on the Moxley family, then neighbors of the Skakels in the Belle Haven section of Greenwich.
"Good luck to you, sir," board chair Erika Tindill said to Skakel.
There were no radical outbursts from Skakel. No tears or fist-pounding.
Just a few short sentences from the board that told him all he needed to know: He will remain in prison, and continue to serve his 20-years-to-life sentence for bludgeoning Moxley to death with a golf club on a cold October night 37 years ago when both were 15 years old.
After a brief turn toward relatives who sat behind him, Skakel left the hearing room, austere with its cream-colored walls and blue plastic chairs, the same way he came in. Composed. Steadfast. Silent. The look on his face nearly impossible to read.
If his words before the board were any indication, he will continue to maintain his innocence, as he has done since his January 2000 arrest in Greenwich.
"I know the best chance of getting parole is to admit guilt to this crime," he told the board. "I did not commit this crime."
For the duration of his month-long 2002 trial in Norwalk, Skakel did not speak. For nearly two hours Wednesday morning, he had no trouble coming up with words.
Soft-spoken throughout the hearing, Skakel sat next to Seeley and attorney Hubert Santos, reading from prepared notes but occasionally appearing to talk off the cuff. He recalled his troubled early years, hindered by dyslexia and alcohol use. He spoke of a vision he had -- nearly 30 years to the day -- that compelled him to become sober. He spoke about how he has been victimized by the media, how he has turned to art and meditation in prison, and about his faith in God.
"The only power I have is prayer," said Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow Ethel Kennedy. "I'm begging God for help, for truth."
During one of the few moments when he looked as if he might break into tears, Skakel spoke of his son, now a teenager, and how they shared a tender moment, years ago, reading "Goodnight Moon."
"He's proof to me that God does exist," said Skakel, on whose behalf numerous letters of support were submitted to the board.
None of it was enough to convince the board he deserved parole.
Board member Pamela Richards commended Skakel for what he has done while in prison. David May, another board member, asked him how he got a grip on his alcoholism, and how he never relapsed, to which Skakel once again invoked a higher power.
"I am resigned to do God's will, whatever that is," said Skakel, whose request for a sentence reduction was denied earlier this year.