09/22/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT
For a quarter century it looked like the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley might never see the inside of a courtroom. Now it seems as though the case may have trouble staying out of court. Although Michael Skakel was convicted last year of beating Moxley to death back when they were 15-year-old neighbors in Greenwich, Conn., his defense now claims it has evidence implicating two other people in the crime. The latest allegations come from onetime Skakel schoolmate Gitano "Tony" Bryant–reportedly a cousin of embattled L.A. Laker Kobe Bryant.
At a Sept. 4 hearing Skakel attorney Hope Seeley announced she would seek a retrial based on new information that two then-teenage friends of Tony Bryant's from his Bronx neighborhood were the real killers. Says Skakel's cousin Doug Kennedy: "It certainly should be investigated."
Why it hasn't been already raises troubling questions: Both the prosecutor and the defense team learned about Bryant's version of events before Skakel's trial. Crawford "Tres" Mills, a former schoolmate of both Bryant and Skakel's who was writing a script about the case, told The Hartford Courant that Bryant confided in him in '01; Mills then contacted both sets of lawyers. "We were skeptical of it when it first came in," says prosecutor Jonathan Benedict of the Bronx tale. "And we remain extremely skeptical." Mills found a more receptive audience this year when he wrote to Skakel's cousin Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Skakel's lawyers then videotaped an interview in which Bryant, a Miami entrepreneur, describes how his pals picked up golf clubs from the Skakel yard and vowed to attack Moxley "caveman style."
Whether this account wins Skakel a new trial remains to be seen. But Martha Moxley's mother, Dorthy, now 68, points out that in 1975 three young strangers would surely have been noticed in her exclusive neighborhood. "I really believe," she says, "that Michael Skakel killed my daughter."