Hubert J. Santos, a Hartford criminal defense attorney who helped overturn the conviction of Kennedy’s cousin Michael Skakel in the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley, has died. He was 76.
Santos law firm said he died Monday after a brief hospital stay.
Santos’ legal career in Connecticut spanned more than five decades, but he gained national notoriety for his work overturning Skakel’s conviction in Moxley’s murder. Moxley was stabbed and stabbed with a golf club in the Belle Haven neighborhood of Greenwich the night before Halloween 1975.
Skakel was convicted of murder in 2002 and served 11 years in prison; a protracted legal drama ensued as attorneys attempted to overturn the conviction on Skakel’s behalf.
Santos was Skakel’s lead defender in 2013 when he successfully argued that Skakel’s former defender Mickey Sherman failed to provide a competent defense in his trial. That decision by Connecticut Appellate Judge Thomas Bishop was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2016. The state Supreme Court dismissed Skakel’s 2002 murder conviction in 2018, agreeing that the defense attorney was inadequate. Last year, prosecutors said they would not bring Skakel to trial again.
Santos has handled a number of high profile murder cases over the years and taken on the public corruption defense.
One such case: he defended former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, who was charged with corruption charges. Perez pleaded guilty to receiving bribes and extortion attempted theft in 2017 and avoided jail time.
Santos began his legal career in Connecticut in 1974 after serving as a federal defender, according to his law firm. He graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1969. From 1986 to 1993, Santos was a member of the Judicial Selection Commission, one of the original members of that body.
His legal partner Trent LaLima said on Tuesday: “Hubert Santos was a legend in the legal profession and that is a huge loss. In his 50 years as a lawyer, he has left a great legacy through his many legal victories, his commitment to defending the rights of his clients and the countless lawyers he has met and generously helped. “
Tributes came to Santos on Tuesday when news of his death broke. Norm Pattis, a prominent criminal defense attorney, wrote on Twitter that Santos’s death was “a great loss to the bar association and to people of goodwill everywhere.”
Santos was a lecturer and associate faculty member at the University of Connecticut Law School.
He was admitted to the American College of Trial Lawyers as a Fellow in 1986 and was a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. Since its inception in 1983, he has been recognized by Best Lawyers In America as one of the state’s preeminent criminal defense and personal injury attorneys.
In 1990, Santos was named one of Connecticut’s Top Five Attorneys by Connecticut Magazine, and in 2006 he was again named one of the state’s Top 10 Attorneys by the same magazine. In 1993 the University of Connecticut’s School of Law Alumni Association presented him with the Distinguished Graduate Award. In 2005, the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association bestowed its highest honor on Santos by presenting him with the Champion Of Liberty award.
Memorial sites were incomplete. According to the Hartford Courant, Santos leaves behind a son, a daughter and his wife, the superior court judge Thelma Santos.