Alex Murdaugh’s lawyers want SC judge to order prosecutors to reveal motive for murders
State (Columbia, SC)
Lawyers for accused double murderer Alex Murdaugh filed a new motion Tuesday asking a state judge to order prosecutors to reveal what they believe is the disgraced attorney’s motive for allegedly killing his wife and son.
The motion, filed in state court in Colleton County, says that the defense is entitled to a “bill of particulars” from the state setting forth the reasons it believes Murdaugh killed his wife, Maggie, and youngest son, Paul, in June 2021.
Knowing the purported motive would enable defense lawyers “to identify relevant inculpatory or exculpatory evidence in advance of trial,” the defense’s 10-page motion says.
The South Carolina Attorney General’s office had no immediate response to the motion Tuesday afternoon. Prosecutors have said they prefer to respond in court filings.
Prosecutors have not yet made public what they believe is the motive behind Murdaugh’s alleged slayings of his wife and son. Murdaugh was charged with murdering his wife and son in July. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Since the night of June 7, 2021, when the bodies of Paul and Maggie were found on the Murdaugh’s deserted rural estate, the motive behind their deaths has been the cause of much speculation by members of the public and the numerous publications and documentaries.
Murdaugh’s lawyers, Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, have publicly said their client had no reason to kill his wife and son and they intend to raise the utter unlikelihood of a husband and father killing his wife and son as a defense in the case.
There were no witnesses to the killings, nor was the Murdaugh property, a 1,700-acre estate called Moselle, under surveillance by video cameras. Paul was killed with a shotgun; Maggie, with an assault-style rifle.
Murdaugh himself, absent briefly from the property, called 911 to report the bodies on his return to Moselle.
Murdaugh is scheduled for trial starting Jan. 23 in Colleton County.
In a murder case, prosecutors are not required to show motive. But in a case where prosecutors are relying on circumstantial, or non-witness, evidence, prosecutors often want to show that the accused had a motive to kill, the defense attorneys wrote.
In contrast to the lack of publicly available prosecution statements about the murder, prosecutors have made numerous details public about the more than 80 financial crimes Murdaugh has been charged with. Charges include money laundering, forgery, drug trafficking and embezzlement, defense attorneys wrote.
Dozens of state grand jury indictments describe in great detail how Murdaugh used his position as a top lawyer with the Murdaugh law firm to steal money from clients and route the money to his various personal accounts at Palmetto State Bank and Bank of America.
The indictments describe what that stolen money was used for — to buy cars, to give to relatives and the like — and give the names of Murdaugh’s victims in each case, defense attorneys wrote.
None of these financial crimes have any “obvious connection to Maggie or Paul,” Murdaugh’s lawyers’ motion says.
However, prosecutors have turned over 1.2 million pages of documents related to Murdaugh’s financial crimes and allege they have some connection to Murdaugh’s purported guilt in the murders.
“The state asserts the 1.2 million pages of documents relating to alleged financial crimes are relevant because Mr. Murdaugh’s alleged financial crimes are in some unexplained way ‘inextricably linked’ with the murder of his wife and son,” defense lawyers wrote.
“If financial crimes are indeed ‘inextricably intertwined’ with the murders, the complexity of the murder case is enormous, encompassing millions of pages of documents and over 80 alleged financial crimes,” defense lawyers wrote.
Murdaugh’s lawyers said they are not asking for any specific evidence the state has to support its motive — they just want a general statement about what the motive was, defense lawyers wrote.
Murdaugh was disbarred earlier this year after signing a statement accepting responsibility for a $4.3 million theft of insurance money meant to go to the heirs of his late housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who died in 2018 of injuries received in a fall at Murdaugh’s home.