Evidence dispute spills into public in Alex Murdaugh case

Aug 16, 2022, 11:51 PM | Updated: Aug 17, 2022, 12:18 pm
Alex Murdaugh is escorted out of the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, S.C., on Wednesday, ...

Alex Murdaugh is escorted out of the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, S.C., on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. The once-powerful and now disbarred South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to murdering his wife and son 13 months ago. His defense said Murdaugh can't afford to post any bond and wants a speedy trial because "he believes the killer or killers are still at large.” (Tracy Glantz/The State via AP)

(Tracy Glantz/The State via AP)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Attorneys for disbarred South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh say prosecutors are taking too long to share their evidence alleging the disbarred attorney killed his wife and so n, unfairly making it tougher to defend him at his upcoming trial.

It’s a technical legal dispute that precedes many trials, but because of overwhelming public attention on Murdaugh’s case, attorney Dick Harpootlian called a news conference Wednesday that drew a dozen cameras at which he declared prosecutors want a “trial by ambush.”

Prosecutors shot back. “This manufactured drama is just a well-known part of defense counsel’s playbook,” the state Attorney General’s Office responded in legal papers.

Murdaugh, 54, was indicted in July on murder charges in the shooting deaths of his wife Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, who were killed on June 7, 2021, at one of the family’s homes in Colleton County. He has adamantly denied killing them.

Murdaugh’s lawyers immediately asked for the prosecution’s evidence and court rules require authorities turn it over in 30 days. That deadline was Monday and defense lawyers said prosecutors didn’t provide the evidence because they wanted a judge to decide whether to require a protective order limiting who the defense can show the evidence to and how it handles documents, photos and recordings.

Defense attorneys said prosecutors waited until Friday to make the protection request so they could delay turning over the evidence after the deadline. Since it took 13 months to finish the investigation, the defense said, prosecutors should already have had a lot of evidence ready to send.

“I don’t have a shred of paper. I don’t have an email. I don’t have an exhibit. I don’t have any evidence,” Harpootlian said. “We want to try this case in January.”

Prosecutors said the only reason the deadline was missed was because defense attorneys initially appeared to agree to the protection order Friday then changed their minds., according to their legal filing in the matter.

Authorities said they want to protect autopsy or crime scene photos from becoming public and other evidence being revealed before the trial.

Someone in the Attorney General’s Office has already leaked information, Harpootlian said. “All I know about blood spatter is what I read in some blog,” he said.

Neither prosecutors nor state investigators have leaked information in the case, state Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a statement.

If a judge found prosecutors intentionally delayed releasing evidence to the defense, that evidence could be left out of a trial, although judges will almost always try to resolve the dispute in other ways, if possible.

The defense said it is waiting for the evidence so it can hire experts to review GPS data that authorities might say linked Murdaugh to the shooting scene or physical evidence like blood and DNA that investigators might say show he fired one of the two guns they said were used in the killings.

“There’s the cellphone data. There’s the data from the black box in his truck. There’s forensics. We’re never seen an autopsy or an analysis of the time of death,” Harpootlian said.

If convicted of murder, Murdaugh would face 30 years to life in prison without parole. Prosecutors could also choose to seek the death penalty under state law because more than one person was killed, but haven’t made any indication that’s what they might do.

The June 2021 deaths prompted authorities to look into all corners of Murdaugh’s life. At least a half-dozen investigations resulted in charges that he stole $8.5 million from people who hired him and that he lied to police by saying he was shot by a stranger on a roadside. Officials say he actually asked a friend to kill him so his surviving son could collect a $10 million life insurance policy just days after the family firm determined he was stealing money. The friend said the gun went off as he tried to wrestle it from a suicidal Murdaugh’s grip.

Murdaugh is familiar with legal wrangling. His family has dominated the legal scene in tiny, neighboring Hampton County for nearly a century with his father, grandfather and great-grandfather the area’s elected prosecutors for 87 years straight.

Defense attorneys want to take Murdaugh to trial as soon as possible to clear his name. Both sides appear to have agreed on January, with Harpootlian saying at the news conference outside his law office that he wants to stick to that timetable “come hell or high water” and will have lawyers and the rest of his firm doing whatever is necessary to review the evidence whether it is five pages or 5 million pages.

“Ride by here at 11 or 12 o’clock at night, you are going to see the lights on,” said Harpootlian, who when asked another question later in the news conference smiled and said “not me, but somebody who works for me.”


Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Evelyn Knapp, a supporter of former President Donald, waves to passersby outside of Trump's Mar-a-L...
Associated Press

Trump legal woes force another moment of choosing for GOP

From the moment he rode down the Trump Tower escalator to announce his first presidential campaign, a searing question has hung over the Republican Party: Is this the moment to break from Donald Trump?
15 hours ago
FILE - The Silicon Valley Bank logo is seen at an open branch in Pasadena, Calif., on March 13, 202...
Associated Press

Army of lobbyists helped water down banking regulations

It seemed like a good idea at the time: Red-state Democrats facing grim reelection prospects would join forces with Republicans to slash bank regulations — demonstrating a willingness to work with President Donald Trump while bucking many in their party.
15 hours ago
FILE - This Sept. 2015, photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows an aerial view of adult female South...
Associated Press

Researchers: Inbreeding a big problem for endangered orcas

People have taken many steps in recent decades to help the Pacific Northwest's endangered killer whales, which have long suffered from starvation, pollution and the legacy of having many of their number captured for display in marine parks.
2 days ago
FILE - Hiring signs are displayed at a grocery store in Arlington Heights, Ill., Jan. 13, 2023. Emp...
Associated Press

Pay transparency is spreading. Here’s what you need to know

U.S. employers are increasingly posting salary ranges for job openings, even in states where it’s not required by law, according to analysts with several major job search websites.
2 days ago
Meadowdale High School 9th grade students Juanangel Avila, right, and Legacy Marshall, left, work t...
David Klepper and Manuel Valdes, Associated Press

Seattle high school teacher advocates for better digital literacy in schools

Shawn Lee, a high school social studies teacher in Seattle, wants to see lessons on internet akin to a kind of 21st century driver's education, an essential for modern life.
2 days ago
South Carolina Senators hear from the parents of people who died from fentanyl overdose on Jan. 19,...
Associated Press

With overdoses up, states look at harsher fentanyl penalties

State lawmakers nationwide are responding to the deadliest overdose crisis in U.S. history by pushing harsher penalties for possessing fentanyl and other powerful lab-made opioids that are connected to about 70,000 deaths a year.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Evidence dispute spills into public in Alex Murdaugh case