Michael Skakel, the Kennedy cousin convincted in 2002 and serving 20 years to life in the 1975 slaying of a neighbor, will be retried, a judge has ruled.
Skakel's conviction was set aside Wednesday by a Connecticut judge who ruled that his attorney failed to adequately represent him in the 2002 trial.
Prosecutors say they will appeal the decision. Skakel's current attorney, Hubert Santos, said he expects to file a motion for bail, seeking his release.
"We're very, very thrilled," Santos said. "I always felt that Michael was innocent."
Skakel argued that his trial lawyer, Michael Sherman, was negligent in defending him when he was convicted in the golf club bludgeoning of Martha Moxley.
Both Skakel and Moxley were 15 years old at the time of he death.
Prosecutors contended Sherman's efforts far exceeded acceptable standards and that the verdict was based on compelling evidence against Skakel.
John Moxley, the victim's brother, said the ruling took him and his family by surprise and they hope the state wins an appeal to keep him locked up.
"Having been in the courtroom during the trial, there were a lot of things that Mickey Sherman did very cleverly," Moxley said. "But the evidence was against him."
"And when the evidence is against you, there's almost nothing you can do."
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a cousin of Skakel's who has long insisted Skakel did not commit the crime, said on NBC's Today show on Thursday that the ruling was correct.
"He had a very, very poor representation," he said. "If he gets another trial, he's got good lawyers now and there's no way in the world that he will be convicted."
In his ruling this week, the judge wrote that defense in such a case requires attention to detail, an energetic investigation and a coherent plan of defense.
Skakel's counsel's "failures in each of these areas" were significant, he said.
Sherman, for his part, said he did all he could to prevent Skakel's conviction and denied he was distracted by media attention in the high-profile case.
Skakel, who maintains his innocence, was denied parole last year and was told he would not be eligible again to be considered for release for five years.