The ongoing public relations offensive from attorneys representing Alex Murdaugh – the man at the epicenter of the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ true crime saga – has shown no signs of letting up this month. Meanwhile, the complicity of the South Carolina mainstream media in enabling the demonstrable dishonesty of these well-heeled trial lawyers gets clearer by the day.
The job of the press is to expose lies, correct? Or at the very least subject them to rigorous scrutiny? Not in the Palmetto State, it would appear. Here, it’s all about regurgitating falsehoods (and puffing up the deceivers).
To wit: Last week, Murdaugh lawyers Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin were the focus of an obsequiously platitudinal tome from reporter John Monk of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper – one which waxed in blush-worthy detail about their attributes and experience.
Look, I respect Monk. Immensely. And I like him on a personal level. Very much. He is one of the best journalists in the state, boasting a network of sources practically unrivaled (ahem). Monk and I sat together at a recent hearing on one of the civil cases tied to this saga, in fact, swapping a few notes on the possible direction of this incredibly convoluted maze of inquiries.
I believe Monk to be a fair reporter – one who is committed to finding the truth buried deep within this still-expanding maze. This is why it was so incredibly disappointing to see him expend so much of his time, energy and credibility on a glorified “fanboy” profile of these two attorneys … who have enjoyed what can charitably be described as an arms-length relationship with the truth from the very beginning of the Murdaugh unraveling.
Of course, Monk gets lots of exclusives from Harpootlian and Griffin … so I suppose his sprawling opus on these two “heavyweight” attorneys – whose “resumes (are) stuffed with high-profile civil and criminal cases” – was understandable.
Gotta pet the hand that feeds, right?
South Carolina’s mainstream media has done plenty of “heavy petting” of Harpootlian and Griffin – long before the Murdaugh saga thrust these two Palmetto State criminal defense lawyers into the national limelight. And in fairness, Harpootlian and Griffin have earned a lot of their props. Previously, anyway.
Ever since this saga captured the attention of the country, though, the dynamic duo have done nothing but deceive, obfuscate, misdirect and evade. To some extent, that’s understandable (given what they are working with). But the servility shown by the press – especially by McClatchy media outlets – in the face of their ongoing misinformation campaign has been nothing short of nauseating.
What’s worse? This gratuitous “fluffing” has continued unabated even after Griffin repeatedly advanced demonstrably (deliberately?) false narratives following a bizarre September 4, 2021 roadside shooting incident involving Alex Murdaugh. And it continued unabated after Harpootlian took a totally uncalled for pot shot at our news director Mandy Matney in a (failed) effort to knock her down a peg or two with her peers.
How did we get here? Well, the Murdaugh family has been up to no good for decades. And they appear to have been up to no good with some very bad hombres. And it’s all starting to come out – and metastasize – as the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) aggressively pursues at least six different criminal inquiries involving the family and the powerful law firm it founded.
Bottom line? A lot of people are dead, a lot of money is unaccounted for and a lot of cops, lawyers and judges are scrambling to conceal what appears to be decades of entrenched corruption.
Where is this story headed? Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. At this point there could be an alien abduction, spontaneous combustion or supernatural haunting and I wouldn’t be even remotely surprised. The ‘Murdaugh Murders’ saga has taken so many twists and turns already that its plot line defies credulity – and comprehension. Yet as Alex Murdaugh reportedly told his two brothers last month, we aren’t “even halfway up the mountain yet.”
Indeed … and sources close to the investigation have told me to brace for additional whiplash-inducing developments in the weeks and months to come.
“This is going to go in a direction no one is anticipating,” a source familiar with the ongoing investigations told me last week.
ROOTS OF DECEPTION …
In the predominantly rural, mostly impoverished five-county region situated between the Savannah River and the Atlantic Ocean in southern South Carolina, the Murdaughs have been the law for more than a century. Three members of the family – father, son and grandson – served as solicitor for the S.C. fourteenth judicial circuit from 1920-2006. And until recently Alex Murdaugh – the great-grandson – served as a deputy solicitor under Duffie Stone, the family’s hand-picked successor.
Additionally, the law firm founded by the family – Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick (PMPED) – emerged as a regional powerhouse by adeptly exploiting the Palmetto State’s erstwhile “friendly venue” courtroom statues, which transformed Hampton county into one of America’s most notorious “judicial hellholes.” PMPED earned big judgments from multiple corporate defendants – most notably CSX, a Jacksonville, Florida based national rail carrier. Indeed, the firm’s Hampton headquarters is often referred to as the “house CSX built.”
The fourteenth circuit was the Murdaughs’ exclusive domain. They owned the cops, the courts, the prosecutors and the politicians. Justice was doled out based on who paid them obeisance. Or, who didn’t.
And nothing was ever going to change that …
Shortly after 2:00 a.m. EDT on the morning of February 24, 2019, though, things did change. On that date, a fatal boat crash involving a member of the Murdaugh family claimed the life of a beautiful young woman – 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton, S.C.
(Click to view)
(Via: Beach Family)
Beach (above) was flung into the dark, cold Carolina waters when a 17-foot, center console fishing boat slammed into a piling on the Archer’s Creek bridge north of Parris Island, S.C. at a high rate of speed. Her body was found a week later by fishermen more than five miles from the crash site.
Allegedly driving the boat at the time of this fatal collision was Paul Murdaugh, who has since been brutally murdered in a still-unsolved double homicide. That crime also claimed the life of his mother, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh. At the time of the crash, Murdaugh was alleged to have been “grossly intoxicated” (or “drunker than Cooter Brown” according to his late grandfather, former S.C. fourteenth circuit solicitor Randolph Murdaugh III).
Using their innumerable local connections, the Murdaughs allegedly attempted to obstruct and manipulate the investigation into the crash … but the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson nonetheless charged Paul Murdaugh with three counts of boating under the influence shortly thereafter.
Harpootlian and Griffin have attempted to rewrite the history since the boat crash case, but their revisionist efforts have depended almost entirely on the aforementioned obstruction – and the alleged complicity of local law enforcement agencies with ties to the Murdaughs.
“It has been repeatedly documented that law enforcement misrepresented the facts of this case,” attorney Mark Tinsley, who represents the Beach family, said during a court appearance in Lexington county last month.
(Click to view)
(Via: S.C. Attorney General’s Office)
As I have often said, this fatal crash – and its aftermath – shined a light on the Murdaughs like nothing before. And what this light has picked up has been intensely illuminating. Meanwhile, the wrongful death suit filed in the aftermath of the boat crash threatened to expose the finances of the family – and the firm. In fact, Alex Murdaugh was scheduled to appear in court on June 10, 2021 to answer to all manner of disclosure motions in the civil case – but this hearing never took place due to the savage slaying of his wife and youngest son three days earlier at the family’s hunting property, known as Moselle.
Currently, motions compelling the discovery of financial information have been taken under advisement by S.C. circuit court judge Daniel D. Hall of York, S.C.
Who killed Maggie and Paul on that fateful spring evening?
From the beginning, Alex Murdaugh’s attorneys have claimed he has an “ironclad alibi” for the time of the murders. They have also claimed he has never been viewed as a suspect or a ‘person of interest’ in connection with the killings, and that he has been “cooperating fully” with SLED in its aftermath. They have further claimed Murdaugh’s interview with SLED investigators three days after the killings was all about “closing the book on him as any sort of suspect.”
Sources close to the double homicide inquiry have repeatedly cautioned me against accepting any of these assertions … another example of the inherent untrustworthiness of the defense attorneys involved in this case.
THE LIES START TO UNRAVEL …
Of course, the roadside shooting event on September 4 was when the lies finally started catching up with Murdaughs’ attorneys – or when they should have started catching up with them, anyway.
Instead, the fiction espoused by these “bulldog” lawyers was taken as gospel.
According to Griffin, a passerby shot Murdaugh in the head while he was inspecting a flat tire on Old Salkehatchie Road near Varnville, S.C. shortly after 1:00 p.m. EDT that day. Never mind the Mercedes-Benz SUV driven by the 53-year-old attorney was equipped with run-flat tires. Griffin also claimed Murdaugh’s tire “appeared to have been slashed,” even though the knife allegedly used to inflict this damage was quickly linked to Murdaugh.
As I noted a month ago, “the subterfuge surrounding the events which preceded the roadside shooting (was) absolutely nothing compared to the blatant lies told in its aftermath.”
Following the shooting, Griffin went out of his way to dramatize the seriousness of his client’s head wound. In fact, to hear the defense attorney tell it, Murdaugh’s injury was something straight out of the Zapruder film.
Specifically, Griffin claimed Murdaugh sustained “entry and exit wounds” from the bullet that struck him. He further claimed the projectile fractured his client’s skull, which resulted in hemorrhaging in his brain that left him temporarily blind. All of this information was first reported by The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier.
“He’s very lucky to be alive,” Griffin told the Pulitzer-winning paper, referring to his client’s wounds as “significant.”
Five days after the shooting, though, an incident report from the Hampton county sheriff’s office said Murdaugh had sustained “no visible injuries.” The sheriff’s office later retracted this report – submitting an amended document claiming Murdaugh had suffered a “major injury.”
Nothing suspicious about that, huh?
(Click to Listen)
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From the very beginning, SLED defined Murdaugh’s injury as “superficial.” Which, I am told, was a generous estimation of the damage.
Ultimately, the proof was in the proverbial pudding: Murdaugh appeared before a friendly Hampton county magistrate on September 16 …. with nary a scratch on his noggin. Seriously, not even a band-aid for a “boo boo.”
Questioned as to the lack of any visible head injury on his client, Harpootlian continued to claim a bullet had “grazed” Murdaugh’s head – and insisted medical records affirming the extent of his injuries would soon be presented to the public. Harpootlian declined to say when these records would be released, however.
As of this writing, none of Murdaugh’s attorneys have produced a single medical record related to the shooting. So far, all they have cited is the testimony of an in-flight nurse who treated Murdaugh as he was airlifted to a Savannah, Georgia hospital.
Last week, Griffin told Alcorn that Murdaugh’s medical records from the shooting had been “requested” and would be released as soon as possible.
“Until I see the medical record from the doctor … we won’t have a solid answer on the exact type of wound,” Alcorn tweeted. “Griffin said he would let me view it when he receives it. We will see if that happens.”
We will see if that happens indeed …
Also worth recalling? In the aftermath of the roadside shooting, Griffin claimed his client had been transported to the taxpayer-subsidized Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston, S.C. – not to Parker’s Emergency and Trauma Center in Savannah, Georgia. In fact, Griffin is said to have expressly rebuked my reporting that Murdaugh was transported to Savannah … which is where he was actually sent.
As a result, reporters coalesced around MUSC – not Parker’s – as they sought a glimpse of the shooting “victim.”
Was this misdirection intentional?
According to Harpootlian, he and Griffin have offered up incorrect information to the media because they were relying on accounts provided to them by their “opioid-addled” client.
Really? As if these lawyers wouldn’t vet such information prior to releasing it publicly?
In fairness, though, Harpootlian would have us believe Murdaugh spent $10 million that he allegedly stole from his former law firm on his recently revealed oxycontin addiction. Assuming a high-end street value of $80 per pill, that amount of cash would purchase a staggering 125,000 pills – which is enough oxycontin to keep even the hardest core addict supplied for 114 years.
Again … nothing either of these attorneys has said from the beginning of this saga adds up. Nothing.
On the one hand, I get it. Lawyers have a duty to their clients, even if that means launching an Operation Mayhem-style carpet-bombing of deceptions in the hopes of scrambling the narrative so severely no one can follow it (which, incidentally, would appear to be working).
That is to be expected …
What has been completely unexpected, though? And profoundly disappointing? The extent to which the South Carolina press corps has swallowed these lies … and not only that, raised the liars on a pedestal.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that New York Knights’ lid from ‘The Natural‘ pictured above).
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