Alex Murdaugh petitions to delay Mallory Beach trial amid murder charges
NBC - 2 WCBD (Charleston, SC)
HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) - Disgraced former attorney Alex Murdaugh has requested a stay in the wrongful death trial brought by the family of a 19-year-old girl who died when she was thrown from a boat allegedly being driven by a drunk and underaged Paul Murdaugh.
The family of Mallory Beach has been in litigation with Murdaugh since the crash in 2019. His youngest son, Paul, was facing charges connected to the crash prior to his June 2021 murder. Those charges have since been dropped.
Representatives of Mallory Beach filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Murdaugh, alleging he was aware of and enabled Paul's reckless behavior, with the plaintiffs introducing photographic evidence to back up that claim.
The lawsuit is just one of many that have buried Murdaugh since the murders of his wife and son unraveled a web of financial corruption and legal malpractice involving the once well-respected Hampton County lawyer.
As he is the sole suspect being charged in the murders of his family, Murdaugh has requested a stay in the trial brought on behalf of Beach, claiming that proceeding with the civil trial would violate his civil rights.
Specifically the motion claimed that evidence presented in the Beach trial "might be used against Alex
Murdaugh in the criminal proceeding or might lead to the discovery of such information."
Likewise, given the intense media attention on the cases connected to Murdaugh, the motion claimed that proceeding with the trial could taint the jury pool for the upcoming criminal trial.
Finally, the motion argued that if Murdaugh is forced to participate in the Beach trial, he "will not have time to adequately prepare and focus on his upcoming trial on the pending murder charges, which is anticipated to be held in January 2023."
The plaintiffs countered saying that the cases are only tangentially related at best," and citing examples of multiple cases where parallel civil and criminal litigation proceeded simultaneously without impacting the rights of the defendant.
In summary, the plaintiffs argued that "the real reason Defendant Murdaugh seeks this stay is because he does not like how he will look to the public in the trial, not to avoid the adverse inference the jury is allowed to draw in this civil matter if and when Murdaugh invokes the Fifth Amendment."
They went on to say, "unfortunately for Defendant Murdaugh, the law is clear that a party who chooses to assert the privilege against self-incrimination in a civil case must then bear the consequences of that choice. The consequence is the adverse inference. That is the price one in Murdaugh's position pays if he chooses the benefit of exercising his Fifth Amendment rights to protect himself in the criminal matter."
Mark Tinsley, an attorney representing the Beach family, provided News 2 a statement reading in part:
"The dark cloud created by this saga that hangs over the heads of lawyers and judges in this state must be eradicated in order to rebuild the trust of the public in our judicial system. The only way to move forward is to hold Alex Murdaugh accountable to the same rules that apply to the general public. The notoriety that he has created for himself through his own actions cannot serve as a basis for granting him a stay in this civil case. In fact, granting him a stay in this case will only further tarnish the reputation of our state's judicial system."
This is not the first time Murdaugh has tried to delay a case because of other litigation against him. He also tried to stop his former insurance company from bringing a case against him for defrauding it of millions of dollars in a wrongful death settlement because he was also facing charges for stealing that money from the sons of his former housekeeper, who allegedly tripped and fell to her death at his property.