COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh appeared in a Colleton County courtroom on Friday afternoon without handcuffs and unshackled as his attorneys discuss a slew of motions they have filed regarding evidence and other matters leading up to the January 2023 murder trial.
The first motion discussed was focused on the high-velocity blood spatter evidence in the murders of Paul and Margaret, the former attorney’s wife and son.
Attorney Dick Harpootlian said state investigators collected Murdaugh’s shirt, shorts, and shoes as evidence – but he said initial testing indicated no presence of Paul Murdaugh’s blood. Harpootlian noted that both he and fellow attorney Jim Griffin reviewed that shirt from the night of the murder and determined it could not be tested again.
While Harpootlian said he did not believe there was any dishonesty from the Attorney General’s Office regarding testing and that submitted evidence, he did feel there were problems caused by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and an out-of-state expert.
The attorney said his team has yet to receive a number of reports connected to how testing and results from Murdaugh’s shirt were processed and handled.
He went on to request images of Murdaugh’s shirt, and any possible initial evidence from shirt claiming what is left of the shirt has been ruined. He further claimed the expert used photoshop when testing the shirt which the defense claims altered the results.
State Prosecutor Creighton Waters said they are in the process of assessing whether they plan to introduce Murdaugh’s shirt during the murder trial, so they believe the motion offered by the defense is premature.
Waters says he didn’t get involved in the investigation into Paul and Maggie’s murders until September of 2021 which was around Murdaugh’s roadside suicide attempt with Curtis Smith.
That is when the financial crimes began to unravel.
Judge Clifton Newman granted the defense’s motion to compel more evidence from the state regarding the shirt Murdaugh was allegedly wearing the night of the murders.
A second motion discussed Friday was the bill of particulars filed by the defense, which demands information on what the state believes was Murdugh’s motive in the killings of his wife and son.
The state believes Murdaugh killed Paul and Margaret to cover up his financial crimes which they said had been building for the past 11 years. They said he then orchestrated the roadside shooting to further shift focus away from himself to the financial crimes.
Attorney Jim Griffin said the state’s theory that Murdaugh murdered his wife and son to distance himself from any financial investigations but ultimately planted himself in the middle of a murder investigation doesn’t make sense.
He further said there is no evidence Paul or Maggie was aware of Alex’s financial improprieties, and no evidence Margaret hired a forensic accountant to review family money nor any evidence of life insurance policies.
Griffin maintained the roadside shooting had nothing to do with the murders.
Judge Newman said he plans to review and scrutinize Friday’s arguments from the defense’s motion on whether or not motive should be admitted before making a ruling. Issues will be addressed later.
The defense will need to provide a response to the state by December 16th. State prosecutors would then have until December 23rd to provide a further response.
The murder trial is scheduled to begin on January 23, 2023.