Murdaugh defense calls out state alleging evidence not shared, leaks in case
Attorney general’s office denies leaking information
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - A lawyer representing former Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh told reporters Wednesday morning the state is “hiding the ball” and hasn’t handed over any evidence they have in the deaths of Murdaugh’s wife and son.
Attorney Dick Harpootlian said he and fellow Murdaugh attorney Jim Griffin filed a motion Tuesday to compel prosecutors to reveal evidence they have in the murder case against Murdaugh more than a month after the murder indictments were handed down by a state grand jury. He said the motion requested that Judge Clifton Newman order that evidence be turned over to the defense “immediately without delay.”
“You would assume the state knew when they presented indictments for murder, we would immediately request the evidence and you would assume they would have made it available a month ago so we can evaluate the quality and quantity of it and begin to hire experts, interview witnesses and examine any physical items,” Harpootlian said. “This is the process that occurs every day in every county of South Carolina wherever a criminal case is pending.”
Murdaugh was charged on July 14 with two counts of murder in the June 7, 2021, shooting deaths of his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh; and their youngest son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh. Murdaugh told 911 operators that he returned to the family’s rural hunting property in the Islandton community of Colleton County and made the grisly discovery.
“The state has agreed to try this case in January,” Harpootlian said. “Every day that passes makes it more difficult for Alex Murdaugh and his attorneys to get prepared for trial.”
Harpootlian said there is no reason why prosecutors couldn’t have turned over almost all of the discovery, the legal term referring to the evidence prosecutors compile against a defendant, 32 days ago.
Harpootlian called it a case of “trial by ambush.”
“Give us the stuff. You went to a grand jury and said you’ve got enough evidence to convict Alex Murdaugh, convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Where is it?” he said. “I don’t have a shred of paper. I don’t have an email. I don’t have an exhibit. I don’t have any evidence.”
SC Attorney General’s Office denies leaking information on case
The motion from Murdaugh’s attorneys also points the finger at the state for leaking the information about Murdaugh’s indictments to the press two days before the grand jury met, a fact the State Law Enforcement Division told the family, according to Harpootlian.
The defense also claims state shared information in documentation and emails submitted to the court.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office released a statement Wednesday afternoon in response to allegations of leaks in the case:
Contrary to what Mr. Harpootlian said at his news conference, it is categorically false that the Attorney General’s Office leaked any information in the Murdaugh murder case. We’ve been in communication with SLED and they deny that they told anyone that our office leaked anything.
As we said in our Response in Opposition to the Motion to Compel, this is, “…a not unexpected but completely blatant attempt to create drama where formerly there was none.
In that motion filed by the state, prosecutors claimed the state “has already delivered thousands of pages of discovery materials to the defense.”
It also contains excerpts of emails between the defense and prosecution. The prosecution attacked what it called the defense’s “ridiculous claim” that the defense was being “coerced” by the state’s request to review a proposed order to unseal search warrants in the case so they could be turned over as discovery.
“This was purely in a cooperative atmosphere and not at all coercive,” court documents state. “The defense’s sputtering contention in mischaracterizing this exchange in and of itself shows the blatant weakness and manufactured nature of the defense’s position throughout their argument. As with the rest of their motion, their claims of prosecutorial ‘coercion’ may make for exciting reading or content for a press conference, but they are detached from reality.”
The defense has asked for a hearing in front of Newman about this motion.
The state has issued a response to the motion, saying it is a blatant attempt to create drama where there was none. And they’ve made reasonable efforts to address issues.
Defense will be ready, ‘come Hell or high water’
Despite these speed bumps, Harpootlian says he is confident that his client will get a fair trial and it will take place in Colleton County. No change of venue is in the works, he said.
Despite the lack of information so far, he said the team will try this case in January “come Hell or high water.”
“Run by here at 11 or 12 o’clock at night and you’re going to see the lights on,” he said. “We’re not going to let this slip by because they’re dragging their feet.”
Harpootlian said he is concerned about potential leaks in the case, particularly when those leaks contain inaccurate or false information.
“I’ve tried, in my lifetime, hundreds of criminal cases, prosecuted and defended,” he said. “I have full faith in our judicial system. I mean, I have, and when I say that, this isn’t some sort of patriotic wave of the flag. I’ve seen it work. I’ve seen it work. And I’ve seen it work in wonderful ways. We just need to play by the rules.”
When asked about Murdaugh, Harpootlian said only, “He’s fine.”
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