Defense attorney pushes for mistrial in Murdaugh trial

Published: Feb. 10, 2023 at 2:28 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 10, 2023 at 5:17 PM EST
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COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - Friday was day 15 in the trial for Alex Murdaugh.

He is charged in the deaths of his wife Maggie and son Paul.

Court began with both sides finishing their cross examination of Mark Tinsley, an attorney for Mallory Beach’s family.

The next person took take the stand was a woman, named Blanca Turrubiate-Simpson, who originally helped Alex Murdaugh when he needed a translator for a case at his law firm. After that she began working at the Murdaugh’s house to help Maggie.

In the time she was working there, Blanca grew close with the family and became friends with Maggie.

While Blanca was answering questions from the prosecution, the defense objected She was describing a private conversation between her and Maggie where she says Maggie was worried about money.

“When Maggie closed the door...,” said Blanca.

“Objection. Hearsay,” said defense attorney Harpootlian.

“Just I think... was she anxious about money issues,” asked the prosecution.

“Your honor! I object,” Harpootlian said.

“Well I know your objection. I understand your objection... well I don’t care what you’re doing. There’s an objection to the previous question, the objection is sustained. While entertaining the objection you cannot pose another question,” said Judge Clifton Newman, telling the state prosecutor he was wrong for continuing his questioning and instructing the jury to strike it from consideration before excusing them from the room. After the jury left, the defense made a huge motion with defense attorney Dick Harpootlian motioned for a mistrial.

“He said before your honor ruled, was she concerned about money? Or wasn’t she concerned about money? He testified, which is to hearsay, I would move for mistrial. I think it is un dually prejudicial based on the last three weeks we’ve heard of financial misconduct on the part of the defendant. And I would move for a mistrial, I would move that it is a mistrial because I don’t think even if you give this jury an instruction, you can’t unring the bell. You can’t correct that. And now I’ve had to draw attention to it even more so by objecting to it. He knew it was wrong,” said defense attorney Dick Harpootlian.

That gave the judge a decision to make, either call for the trial to start over from the beginning with a new jury or allow it to continue. After a few minutes of argument from both sides, Judge Newman denied the motion for a mistrial. He did decide that the objection to the question was legitimate, and the state had to move away from the topic when the jury came back in.

Blanca told the prosecution Maggie told her she was concerned about the amount of money asked for in the lawsuit. She says Maggie told her Alex didn’t tell her everything about money.

In texts with Maggie Murdaugh just hours before she was murdered, Blanca says Alex asked his wife to come to their Moselle home that night where they’d enjoy a meal Blanca cooked. After making the food, the witness says she went home not hearing the horrible news until Alex called her the next morning.

“All I remember is when he said that they were dead I dropped the phone.”

She also told the prosecution there was a pair of khakis and a damp towel by the shower in Alex’s Moselle home when she arrived the next morning. She says he asked her to clean up because she knew how Maggie liked to keep things.

As she walked through the house June 8th, she claimed in court a lot of items were in unusual spots - like pots, dishes and even clothes. The defense pointing out that could be explained by the volume of support for Alex the night before.

“Are you aware of how many people were in there - how many friends, law partners, his sister - were in the Moselle house the night of the 7th?” asked Harpootlian.

“No sir.”

“And if I told you there were 12-15 would that surprise you?”

In cross-examination, Dick Harpootlian asked her about the clothes in the bathroom. She she didn’t see blood on the pants or towel in the bathroom.

The prosecution pointed out to Blanca clothes Alex wore in a Snapchat video Paul took the night of the murders didn’t match what he was wearing when law enforcement arrived on scene after the deaths. She said he wore something to work that day that didn’t match the Snapchat video or what he was wearing that night when law enforcement arrived. She told Harpootlian she didn’t see what he changed into before she left.

A conversation between Alex and Blanca from a few months after the murders was also brought up in court. For context, Blanca was confident she knew what Alex wore as he left for work June 7th because she had adjusted his collar and the conversation in question revolved around what exactly he had on.

“Alex came over and he was inquiring of you what kind of shirt he had on that day, correct?”

“It didn’t feel like he was inquiring, it felt more like he was trying to convince me of the shirt he was wearing.”

Harpootlian asked Blanca how Alex referred to her. She says he always called her his friend and not his housekeeper.

She also told Dick Harpootlian, in cross examination, that Alex said Maggie was his all.

Blanca and her husband took care of the Moselle property for Alex after the murders until September 4, 2021. That day, which was a Saturday, Alex told Blanca he was going to a doctor and needed her to send him pictures of his insurance cards. That is the same day Alex was shot.

Tensions flared again after this and the motion for a mistrial. A little more than half an hour later, the jury was excused again, and in their absence attorneys from the state and defense argued... prompting judge Newman to leave the courtroom, telling them to debate amongst themselves.

You can view a complete timeline of the Murdaugh case below: