COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – State Senator and Alex Murdaugh’s defense attorney Dick Harpootlian (D-Richland) discussed his client’s recent guilty verdict on the senate floor Tuesday.
The comments came after Senator Gerald Malloy (D-Darlington) praised the way that Judge Clifton Newman handled the trial and called into question South Carolina’s requirement that judges retire at age 72.
Harpootlian said that he was disappointed with the verdict and plans to appeal the ruling.
Senator Chip Campsen (R-Charleston) asked if Judge Newman ruled against the defense. Harpootlian said that he did on occasion. He said it was all part of the process. Prosecution and defense would both object and sometimes Judge Newman would rule in the objecting party’s favor, sometimes he would rule against.
Harpootlian said that if Campsen meant did Judge Newman make legal errors, his answer is yes, he believes Judge Newman did. However, he said that is not for him to decide. Harpootlian said he plans to appeal the verdict and let the legal system play out. He said the process is working.
Campsen said that one of the criticisms against the way judges are elected in South Carolina is that they will be beholden to legislators once they are elected. Harpootlian said that he is sure that wasn’t true in this case. He said the only thing judges accommodate him on in the courtroom is scheduling.
Harpootlian said that he disagrees with some of Judge Newman’s rulings, but he said that is not based on bias, it is based on Judge Newman having a different view of the law than he has.
Campsen called the case one of the most high-profile cases in the history of South Carolina.
During his statements, Harpootlian thanked his colleagues for reaching out to him asking how he was doing.
He said he has been trying cases for almost half a century, and the process is still as rewarding for him as it was the day he began — when the system works.
Harpootlian said that he got many lovely messages from people watching the trial, as well as many nasty messages. He said those that sent the nasty messages clearly do not have an understanding of the justice system. He said everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
Reading the oath that he took when he became a lawyer, Harpootlian said that he has always strived to uphold that oath, and did so during the Murdaugh trial as well.
He referred to the 20 murder defendants that Abraham Lincoln defended. He says that not all of them were acquitted, but Lincoln still represented them.
Harpootlian said that his clients don’t have to prove to him that they are innocent; the question he asks is whether the state can prove that they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, whose team prosecuted the case, also commented Tuesday.
In a series of Tweets, Wilson said that he was proud of his team and that the verdict shows “your position, power, and station in life don’t matter. In South Carolina, no one is above the law.”