Judge rules to allow financial crime testimony in Murdaugh murder trial

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 11:44 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 6, 2023 at 6:38 PM EST
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COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - The judge has ruled to allow testimony related to Alex Murdaugh’s financial criminal charges in the double murder trial.

The disbarred Lowcountry attorney is charged in the June 7, 2021, killings of his wife, Maggie; and their youngest son, Paul.

The jury had not been present in the courtroom for additional testimony focusing on the nearly 100 charges relating to financial crimes ranging from money laundering to stealing millions from clients and the family law firm and tax evasion.

Judge Clifton Newman had been listening to that testimony to decide whether he will allow the state to call those witnesses again to testify before the jury.

Prior to the judge’s decision, the attorney for Mallory Beach’s family took the stand on Monday. Over the last two weeks it’s been established that there was a hearing scheduled in that boat crash case for June 10, 2021, but with Paul and Maggie Murdaugh being killed June 7, it didn’t happen.

Both sides focused questioning on the financial consequences for Alex that might have come with that hearing.

“There was going to be some time after that, is that fair,” defense attorney Phil Barber said.

“I think it’s fair to say that there wouldn’t have been an explosion on June 10 but the fuse was lit the moment that that information became available in the case,” said Mark Tinsley, the attorney representing the Beach family.

The defense tried to say the hearing didn’t represent a judgement day sort of moment for Alex’s financial wrongdoings - the prosecution disagreed.

“If the hearing takes place on June 10, 2021, what is the net effect of what could happen at that point,” state prosecutor Creighton Waters said.

“The discovery of everything he’s done,” Tinsley said.

After Tinsley’s testimony, Judge Newman ruled all financial crime evidence heard over the last few days will be allowed in the double murder trial.

“I find that the jury’s entitled to consider whether the apparent desperation of Mr. Murdaugh because of his dire financial situation,” Judge Newman said.

Judge Newman goes on to finish that thought by clarifying the jury is entitled to hear this evidence as potential motive. The state says some of the witnesses we’ve heard from over the course of this private hearing will be ready to testify in front of the jury starting Tuesday.

Here’s a closer look at some of the financial pressures, Murdaugh faces.

In 2018, Murdaugh’s housekeeper Gloria Satterfield died in a trip-and-fall incident on the family’s Colleton County property.

Just this past summer, he reached a 4.3 million agreement with Satterfield’s sons.

A year after Satterfield’s death, Murdaugh’s son, Paul, crashed his boat killing 19-year-old Mallory Beach and injuring others on-board.

That wrongful death lawsuit is still pending.

Beach’s attorney says his clients intend to get everything they can out of Murdaugh.

“The Beach family stood on the causeway for 8 days while their daughter’s body was in the water. I don’t know that there’s any amount of money that somebody would willingly take to go through what they’ve gone through, but if you are asking a lawyer who does civil work, was I making a substantial demand? In terms of a settlement, I think that most people would say yes,” Beach family Attorney Mark Tinsley said.

In September 2021, Murdaugh’s former law firm accused him of stealing millions of dollars from them.

A week later, SLED opened an investigation into Murdaugh over accusations of misappropriated funds.

Murdaugh resigned from the firm which has since changed its name.

A month later, the firm sued him over those accusations.

WTOC will continue to follow these*other active cases against Murdaugh which we expect to hear more about, as this trial unfolds.