WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCBD) – Disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh will appear in court next week for the start of what is expected to be a high-profile murder trial. Murdaugh is charged with the murders of his wife Maggie and son Paul in June of 2021. The defense is looking to poke holes in the state’s case as much as it can ahead of the trial starting.
Murdaugh’s Attorneys, Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, continue to file last-minute motions, asking for certain evidence to be thrown out. Murdaugh’s defense is also questioning the state’s handling of the murder investigation.
On the flip side, state prosecutors have remained silent in the lead-up to the trial, keeping evidence close to the chest. Attorneys connected to some of these investigations say the flurry of motions could change the trajectory of the trial once Judge Clifton Newman has had a chance to rule on them.
“It appears that Alex’s team is very active, and they should be,” says Attorney Ronnie Richter, who represents unrelated victims of Murdaugh. “This is really the playground for the defense, trying to get their speaking points out there; they’re trying to get their themes out there.”
Lengthy motions filed by the defense call the state’s murder investigation into question. They also ask Judge Clifton Newman to throw some of the state’s key evidence out. Richter says Murdaugh’s defense will likely get to make the same argument to the jury.
“My prediction would be all the evidence comes in, albeit the defense is entitled to make any arguments they want to make about the integrity of the evidence,” says Richter.
The motions likely won’t be taken up until a jury is set by Judge Newman. Richter believes Murdaugh’s attorneys are doing everything they can to create doubt in the strength of the case. He also believes the federal trial of Russell Laffitte, a Murdaugh accomplice, offers some insight into how the state could present its case.
“I think the Russell Laffitte evidence and what we learned in that trial is kind of the platform from which the state will be leaping in the Alex Murdaugh trial.
Attorney Joe McCulloch, who represents an unrelated Murdaugh victim, says the experience of both state prosecutors and Murdaugh’s attorneys will be key in a largely circumstantial case.
“Prosecution has to establish a series of facts that can then be knit together to persuade the jury that they can infer guilt from a series of facts,” says McCulloch.
Both Richter and McCulloch say it’s hard to predict what could happen but believe the pre-trial hearings and how the evidence is presented is critically important.
“While they’re pulling that bow tight, Mr. Harpootlian and Mr. Griffin are going to be yanking at it from the other side and doing everything they can to tear it apart,” says McCulloch.
News 2 will have live trial coverage from Walterboro starting on Friday. Jury selection for the trial will begin first thing Monday morning.