CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Jurors struggled to reach a verdict Tuesday — and two jurors were relieved and replaced with alternates — after over 11 hours of deliberation regarding the fate of ex-Palmetto State Bank CEO Russell Laffitte.
Laffitte is accused of helping former Hampton County attorney and accused murderer, Alex Murdaugh, swindle millions of dollars from his law clients.
Throughout the trial, Laffitte and his team have insisted that he was another victim of Murdaugh, tricked into doing dirty work by someone he trusted and knew to be an upstanding community member. The prosecution has painted Laffitte as a willing participant, who often orchestrated the crimes, and without whom the crimes could not have been committed.
After almost two weeks of the trial, jurors were charged Tuesday with deciding whether Laffitte is guilty of the following federal crimes:
- Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud
- Bank fraud
- Wire Fraud
- Misapplication of bank funds (x3)
They jury began deliberation around 10:20 a.m. Tuesday and worked through lunch.
Shortly after 1:00 p.m., the jury asked Judge Richard Gergel for a transcript of Laffitte’s testimony, which Judge Gergel said was not yet available and would take too long to produce. He instead offered the jury portions of Laffitte’s testimony, which a court reporter could read to them, but the jury did not take him up on the offer.
Around 3:00 p.m., the jury asked to listen again to a secret recording of a November 3 Palmetto State Bank board meeting made by Laffitte. The tape was played and the jury returned to deliberation.
Just before 6:30 p.m., the jury ordered pizza and continued working through dinner.
Around 7:45 p.m., the jurors brought four notes to the judge. Notes one and two were about a juror needing an antibiotic and feeling pressured to change his/her vote. Note three detailed a juror’s concerns about a “hostile juror room, a juror with prior jury experience who is fearful of being bullied, and a group of jurors who do not agree with the judge’s last charge.” Note four was about a juror who is experiencing anxiety.
Judge Gergel questioned whether it was necessary to bring in an alternate juror and start the process all over again. The jurors said that they did not want to come in on Wednesday and wanted to continue deliberating Tuesday night.
Around 8:30 p.m., two jurors were relieved and replaced with alternates. The jury then resumed deliberation.
Shortly before 9:30 p.m., court was called back into session and defense raised objection to the alternate juror who was brought in to relieve the juror with anxiety. Defense claimed that it should have been an hung jury.
Moments later, the jury announced that they had reached a verdict of guilty on all counts.
Editor’s note: This story is breaking and will be updated.