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Skakel Trial Begins

After 27 years of mystery, a Kennedy cousin is being tried in the murder of Greenwich teen-ager Martha Moxley.

Michael Skakel's murder trial began Tuesday morning. Skakel, the nephew of Ethel Kennedy, widow of the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, ignored shouted questions as he entered the courtroom.

Prosecutor Jonathan Benedict stopped on his way inside, and said he's confident he has a strong case.

"We're all very pleased to be here," he said. "People have been working hard on this investigation for 27 years."

Now 41, Skakel is accused of beating Moxley to death with a golf club when the defendant and victim were 15-year-old neighbors in 1975.

Skakel has pleaded innocent. The golf club used in the attack was traced to a set owned by Skakel's mother.

More than 60 media organizations were on hand, many setting up tents in the back of the courthouse, adding to the circus-like atmosphere. Television cameras are not allowed in the courtroom.

Skakel's defense attorney, Mickey Sherman, told CBS News' Jane Clayson that the Kennedy connection shouldn't be a factor in the murder trial.

"It doesn't really have much to do with the case, other than giving it more visibility,'' Sherman said.

Dorthy Moxley, who has campaigned since her daughter's death to find the killer, was set to take the stand after Benedict and defense attorney Sherman gave 10 minutes apiece of opening arguments.

Sheila McGuire, a teen-ager at the time who discovered the body under a tree on the Moxley property, is another early witness.

Prosecutors have more than 40 potential witnesses to call, including some who allege Skakel confessed to the crime when they attended a substance abuse facility with him in Maine in the late 1970s.

Skakel's defense list has about two dozen witnesses, including several from the same treatment facility.

"We're all looking forward to finally resolving this thing," said defense attorney Sherman. "We really are at the light at the end of the tunnel."

Kenneth Littleton, who started his job as a live-in tutor for the Skakel family the day of the murder, is expected to take the stand later in the week. Skakel's lawyers have alleged he confessed to the crime, but Superior Court Judge John F. Kavanewsky Jr. has not yet ruled whether the Littleton statements cited by the defense can be used as evidence.

Skakel's older brother, Thomas, and his father, Rushton Skakel Sr., are expected to testify next week, according to family attorney Emanuel Margolis. Thomas Skakel was an early suspect in the slaying because he was the last person seen with Moxley.

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