Many people believe Michael Skakel killed 15-year-old Martha Moxley in 1975.
But his cousin Robert F. Kennedy Jr. isn’t one of them.
“There were a lot of suspects who had much stronger evidence against them than Michael,” Kennedy, the son of slain Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Skakel, tells PEOPLE exclusively.
Skakel’s murder conviction in Moxley’s death was set aside in 2013, when a judge ruled that his original defense attorney, Mickey Sherman, was inadequate. Skakel has been free ever since, released on a $1.2 million bond, and is awaiting a state Supreme Court’s decision on whether or not he will receive a new trial.
Kennedy is helping him prepare for that possibility, and is out with a new book, Framed, which claims to reveal new evidence exonerating Skakel.
Kennedy’s book points to two former New York City teens, Adolph Hasbrouck and Burr Tinsley, who allegedly admitted to being near the scene of the crime that same night. (They have both invoked the Fifth Amendment in refusing to testify and have never been charged in connection with Moxley’s death. Neither could be reached for comment for this story.)
But prosecutors, who are appealing the judge’s 2013 ruling, tell PEOPLE they believe the original conviction was correct. Though prosecutor Jonathan Benedict had not yet seen the book when he spoke to PEOPLE at press time, he says he stands by the evidence presented in the case.
“[Skakel’s] conviction was the result of a strong case of evidence, the most telling of which came from Mr. Skakel’s own mouth, and reached despite the evidence of an experienced, savvy and energetic defense attorney,” prosecutor Jonathan Benedict says.
Moxley’s mother, Dorthy, agrees, telling PEOPLE: “It is not easy to do this over and over again. But I am supporting the prosecution until the day I die.”
• With reporting by CHRIS HARRIS and LIZ MCNEIL