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Kennedy cousin testifies in latest bid to overturn murder conviction

(Reuters) - Imprisoned Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel took the stand in a Connecticut courtroom on Thursday in his latest bid to have his murder conviction for the 1975 killing of a Greenwich teenager thrown out, according to news reports.

Skakel's testimony came during a wrongful imprisonment trial in Vernon, Connecticut, before a state judge, who will decide whether to grant him a new trial on the grounds that his previous defense attorney, Mickey Sherman, did not competently defend him.

Skakel, 52, testified on Thursday that Sherman called himself a "media whore," signed autographs outside of court, and ignored Skakel's trial strategy suggestions - which included putting Skakel himself on the witness stand, the Hartford Courant newspaper reported on Thursday.

"I was flabbergasted by his nonchalant attitude," Skakel said during questioning by his new attorney, Hubert Santos.

Skakel is the nephew of Ethel Skakel Kennedy, widow of the late U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

Skakel is serving 20 years to life in prison for the bludgeoning death of 15-year-old Martha Moxley, his neighbor in Greenwich, Connecticut. He was convicted in 2002.

Skakel testified that prior to the murder trial, Sherman promised him that the case would be dismissed before trial.

Skakel said Sherman's then-girlfriend, who was present, warned Sherman not to make such grand promises, the Greenwich Time newspaper reported.

"Don't listen to her," Skakel said Sherman replied. "She doesn't know what she's talking about. You'll never see the inside of a courtroom."

Sherman - who was sitting in the gallery during the testimony, the Courant reported - could not be reached for comment.

Connecticut's state Supreme Court has upheld Skakel's conviction, and the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review the case, according to the newspaper.

On October 30, 1975, Moxley attended a Halloween party in the prosperous neighborhood where both her family and the Skakel family lived. Her body was discovered the next morning in her backyard. Skakel's testimony was expected to continue after a lunch break.

(Reporting by Chris Francescani in New York; editing by Scott Malone and Matthew Lewis)

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