April 02, 2002 03:00 PM

More than 26 years after Martha Moxley was found bludgeoned to death with a golf club outside her Greenwich home, the state of Connecticut began the arduous process Tuesday of selecting jurors to decide whether or not her murderer was Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel. Both Skakel (who is the nephew of Robert Kennedy’s widow, Ethel) and Moxley were 15 years old at the time of the long-unsolved tragedy. Among the first prospects to be excused from the trial, which Norwalk Superior Court judge John F. Kavanewsky Jr. told the assembled is expected to take up to three months (including the likely one-month process of selecting a jury), was TV financial analyst Louis Rukeyser, reports the Associated Press. Rukeyser, who was recently fired after 32 years as the host of PBS’s “Wall $treet Week,” was excused after a laugh-provoking exchange with the jurist. Asked if he was needed at his job, Rukeyser responded, “I’m irreplaceable.” Other prospective jurors were dismissed for business or medical reasons. Skakel, now 41, reportedly arrived at the courthouse shortly after 9:30 a.m. and did not speak to reporters, but his attorney, Michael Sherman (who also appeared on Tuesday morning’s “Today” show) did. “Our sights are higher than merely creating reasonable doubt,” Sherman told reporters outside the courtroom. “I would like the jury to go away feeling that Michael Skakel is truly innocent.” Skakel could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted. The victim’s brother, John Moxley (who was also on Tuesday’s “Today” show), called the start of the trial “kind of like Easter. It’s a whole new beginning.”

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