OUTSIDE HARTFORD, CT -- Michael Skakel, a cousin to the famous Kennedy family who is serving 20 years to life in prison after being convicted of murder, was denied parole at a hearing Wednesday morning.
The three-member Board of Pardons & Paroles questioned Skakel for just under two hours in the hearing at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, CT, where he is serving his sentence.
Skakel, 52, is the nephew of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel (Skakel) Kennedy. He was convicted in 2002 of killing 15-year-old Martha Moxley with a golf club in Greenwich, CT in 1975.
After nearly a quarter-century, Skakel was indicted for the murder in June 2000. A highly-publicized trial resulted in his conviction on June 7, 2002; during his sentencing hearing, pleas for leniency from Ethel Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. were read, citing childhood neglect and abuse from his father, Rushton Skakel, as well as dyslexia.
Skakel has steadfastly proclaimed his innocence since his arrest, and did so again Wednesday.
"Almost 37 years ago today, Martha was tragically murdered," he said. "The best chance of getting parole would be to admit this crime - but I did not commit this crime."
Skakel referred numerous times to his commitment to sobriety, which he says came on Oct. 25, 1982.
"As a recovering man, I cannot bear false witness aginst myself, but I pray every day that whoever did this crime comes to justice," he said. "Tomorrow marks my 30th year of sobriety - how can a guilty man stay sober that long with that kind of guilt on their mind?"
Skakel spoke about his son, who is now 13 years old.
"Every day I'm praying to God that I can get home to my boy," he said. "He's proved to me that God does exist. I had the first three years of his life to be with him, and it was unbelievable."
Four members of Moxley's family spoke in favor of Skakel's continued incarceration.
"I believe Michael is representative of the most dangerous aspects of our society," said John Moxley, Martha's brother. "Michael should be incarcerated for the balance of his life."
Moxley's mother, Dorthy, said she sympathized with Skakel for his dyslexia, but that he should not use that as an excuse for what he has been convicted of doing.
"I have sympathy for Michael, because I am also dyslexic, but it never drove me to do the things he's done," she said. "Martha, my baby, will never have a life. To lose a child is the worst thing in the world. I pray nothing happens to your child. He should serve his 20 years, and then maybe he'll do something wonderful."
The panel deliberated for 45 minutes before returning with the decision to deny parole to Skakel.
"Your release is incompatible with the welfare of society," parole board chair Erika Tindill said. Skakel bowed his head, then turned to a group of 10 family members and supporters behind him and patted his heart before being led back to his cell.
Skakel is eligible to apply for parole again in Oct. 2017.
Media organizations covered the hearing moment by moment on Twitter.