By Richard Weizel
MILFORD, Connecticut (Reuters) - Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel, who spent the past 11 years in prison for the 1975 murder of a teenage neighbor in Greenwich, Connecticut, is due in court on Wednesday to ask the judge who overturned his conviction to release him on bond while awaiting a new trial.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Bishop, who two weeks ago overturned Skakel's 2002 murder conviction for the death of Martha Moxley, must determine if he also has the authority to release the 53-year-old nephew of Ethel Skakel Kennedy, widow of slain U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy.
While attorney Hubert Santos argued in court papers that keeping Skakel behind bars violates his client's constitutional rights, prosecutors insist the judge lacks the authority to grant bond because of an automatic stay of his ruling while they appeal.
Santos has requested Skakel be released on $500,000 bond.
"A bond determination should be made by viewing the petitioner as an innocent defendant awaiting a possible re-trial and not as a guilty defendant," Santos said in court papers.
Santos said his client is not a flight risk.
Prosecutors, however, contend the judge cannot even consider granting bail while his decision is being appealed.
"Because the petitioner stands convicted of murder, and remains in the status of a sentenced inmate during the duration of the automatic stay pending appeal, this court has neither the statutory nor common-law authority to grant bond," prosecutors argued in court papers.
Bishop last month issued a 135-page decision that was stinging in its criticism of Skakel's former trial lawyer, Michael Sherman for his "glaring ineffectiveness."
Skakel and Moxley were both 15 when she was beaten to death with a golf club. Her body was found on the lawn of her parents' home.
Skakel, who has maintained his innocence, was arrested in 2000. He was unsuccessful in his bid to be tried as a juvenile.
He has served about half of a 20-years-to-life sentence.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Alden Bentley)