updated 1/14/2005 12:38:48 PM ET 2005-01-14T17:38:48

Attorneys for Michael Skakel urged the Connecticut Supreme Court to throw out his murder conviction, arguing Friday that prosecutors waited too long to try the Kennedy cousin and failed to turn over crucial evidence.

Skakel, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, was convicted in 2002 of bludgeoning his neighbor Martha Moxley to death in 1975, when both were 15. Skakel, now 44, is serving 20 years to life in prison.

Skakel’s lawyers argue that a statute of limitations at the time of the killing set a five-year limit for prosecution of all cases except those that could carry the death penalty. Skakel, who was charged in 2000, was not charged with a capital offense.

“The prosecution of state of Connecticut vs. Michael Skakel should never have been brought,” said Skakel’s attorney, Hope Seeley. “He should never have been incarcerated the last 2½ years.”

Prosecutors contend Connecticut has never set a deadline to try murder cases. They say that the nature of the crime, not the potential punishment, determines whether it is subject to the time limit.

“There’s no other reasonable conclusion but that the Connecticut Legislature never intended to bar the prosecution of murder based on the passage of time,” said prosecutor Susann Gill.

Skakel did not attend the hearing.

Members of Skakel’s family expressed hope before the hearing that the court would order Skakel’s release. The court was not expected to make a ruling on Friday.

“We’re obviously hopeful,” said his brother Thomas, who was a suspect through much of the investigation and was the last person seen with Moxley. “Does anyone think for any minute Martha would be happy knowing that someone is behind bars that didn’t do it?”

Authorities say Skakel, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, beat Moxley to death with a golf club. They also accused Skakel’s wealthy family of a cover-up to thwart his prosecution.

Some of Skakel’s friends and classmates testified that he was romantically interested in Moxley and was jealous because his older brother was competing for her affections.

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