By Mary Ellen Godin
SUFFIELD, Connecticut (Reuters) - Kennedy relative Michael Skakel on Wednesday was denied parole in his first try to persuade authorities he has served enough of his 20-years-to-life prison sentence for the 1975 murder of his young neighbor.
Skakel, 52, maintained his innocence in the murder of 15-year-old Martha Moxley, telling the parole board at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution he hoped the real killer would be brought to justice someday.
"I did not commit this crime," said Skakel, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy and the late Robert F. Kennedy, dressed in a beige prison shirt and pants and seated 5 feet (1.5 meter) away from the two-woman, one-man parole board.
"The Moxleys deserve their pound of flesh," said Skakel, who has served 10 years of his sentence.
"I cannot bear false witness against myself," he said as a half dozen of Moxley's loved ones and a dozen of his supporters looked on.
John Moxley said parole should be denied to his sister's killer, telling the board, "Michael Skakel should remain incarcerated for the balance of his life."
The next time Skakel will be eligible for parole is October 2017, the parole board said.
Both he and Moxley, his neighbor in Greenwich, Connecticut, were 15 when she was beaten to death with a golf club. Her body was found on the lawn of her parents' home in the affluent New York City suburb.
After the hearing, Moxley's brother and mother said they were relieved Skakel was kept behind bars.
"Martha, my baby, will never have a life," said Dorthy Moxley. "I don't think he should get out until he's served his 20 years."
John Skakel called his brother's continued incarceration a "tragedy," especially since Michael Skakel's ex-wife, who is raising their 13-year-old son, was recently diagnosed with cancer.
"Michael relies on faith and prayers and accepts whatever happens," John Skakel told reporters.
Earlier this year, Michael Skakel unsuccessfully asked a three-judge panel in Connecticut Superior Court to reduce his sentence, saying he should have been sentenced as a juvenile and not an adult.
Skakel has maintained his innocence since his arrest in 2000. Long considered a cold case, the Moxley investigation was reopened in 1991 in the wake of an unrelated rape trial of Skakel relative William Kennedy Smith, who was acquitted.
In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by Skakel seeking to overturn his conviction on grounds that his constitutional rights had been violated because Connecticut's five-year statute of limitations, in place at the time Moxley died, had expired when he was charged.
In 2009, lawyers for Skakel unsuccessfully sought a new trial to overturn the conviction, saying new evidence implicated other men.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst, Barbara Goldberg and Vicki Allen)