STAMFORD, Conn. -- John Moxley was 17 when his little sister Martha was found bludgeoned to death outside their exclusive Greenwich home.
Twenty-five years later, Moxley learned that Michael Skakel, a Kennedy nephew accused of the crime, will be tried in an adult court -- meaning Skakel could get 10 years to life in prison if convicted.
"It's great news," Moxley said. "We're excited. We're where we want to be."
The ruling Wednesday was a setback for the defense, which wanted Skakel, who was 15 at the time of the killing, tried in juvenile court. Prosecutors had feared Skakel could walk free in such a case, saying there is no place to send a 40-year-old man convicted of a juvenile crime.
In juvenile court, the maximum penalty Skakel could have received was four years in prison.
Prosecutors had warned that they might drop the case unless it was transferred to adult court, saying Skakel would face such a small penalty in juvenile court that it may not be worth the trauma to Moxley's family.
Judge Maureen Dennis ruled that the case belongs in adult court, in part because Connecticut has no juvenile facility where it could send Skakel if he is convicted.
Skakel's lawyer, Michael Sherman, initially said he may appeal.
"Connecticut sends prisoners out of state every day," he said. "We also send juvenile offenders out of state when they have special needs."
Later, speaking on CNN's "Larry King Live," Sherman said he was looking forward to the trial.
"It's going to be a good thing that there will be a full trial -- that the facts will be known, that the stories will be told," he said. "When that comes out, I think people will come to the belief that Michael Skakel is innocent."
Martha Moxley was beaten to death in 1975 after an evening of pre-Halloween fun with a group of friends, including Skakel. Her body was found the next day on her family's estate.
The 6-iron golf club used in the killing matched a set of clubs owned by the Skakel family, who lived across the street. Skakel's father, Rushton Skakel, is the brother of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel.
No arrests were made in the case for more than 24 years. Skakel was charged last January following an investigation by a one-judge grand jury.
Under state law, a juvenile found delinquent can be committed to a youth facility, hospital or other institution. State facilities cannot accept anyone over the age of 18, and the judge said commitment to a mental institution would not be appropriate in the Skakel case.
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