A South Carolina statewide grand jury is convening in the state capital of Columbia, S.C. this week to consider matters related to the ongoing ‘Murdaugh Murders’ true crime saga.
This would be the second grand jury empaneled at the state level (that we know of) to consider criminal charges against 53-year-old Alex Murdaugh and others involved in the web of illicit activity revolving around him, his family and the influential law firm it founded in Hampton, S.C.
Previously, this news outlet reported on the empanelment of a statewide grand jury probing allegations that Murdaugh – and perhaps other members of his family – obstructed justice in the aftermath of a 2019 boat crash in Beaufort county, S.C.
While inebriated, Paul Murdaugh – Alex’s late son – allegedly slammed his father’s 17-foot center console fishing boat into the piling of a Beaufort county, S.C. bridge in the early morning hours of February 24, 2019. That crash claimed the life of 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton, S.C. and injured several others. The boat crash obstruction probe is currently before a statewide grand jury in Columbia, S.C.
Paul Murdaugh was criminally charged in connection with the crash, but he never stood trial because he was murdered along with his mother on June 7, 2021 at Moselle, a hunting property owned by the family.
Alex Murdaugh remains a person-of-interest in connection with that double homicide, which is being investigated by the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
Created in 1989 as part of an effort to create accountability for crimes that crossed county lines, statewide grand juries typically probe alleged crimes involving public corruption, narcotics, election fraud, obscenity, terrorism, computer crime or securities fraud.
The Murdaugh saga could touch on any number of these subjects … although it appears as though this particular grand jury is looking at allegations involving Alex Murdaugh’s proximity to a Walterboro, S.C.-based gang known as “the Cowboys.”
This gang – which was targeted by SLED under its former chief, Reggie Lloyd – has been described as a “violent street gang” known to post “threats, firearms, large amounts of cash, and what (are) purported to be narcotics on Facebook and YouTube.”
As I noted in covering this angle of the case last month, “the operations of a small-time local gang are small potatoes compared to some of the smuggling operations Murdaugh associates have been linked to.”
You know … these operations.
Still, “that doesn’t mean (the Cowboys) won’t wind up being a significant development in this still-unfolding drama.”
SLED spokesman Ryan Alphin declined comment Monday morning when asked whether agents investigating Murdaugh-related crimes were presenting evidence to a grand jury this week.
It is also not immediately clear whether all Murdaugh-related crimes will be consolidated under one grand jury – sort of like all Murdaugh-related court hearings have currently been assigned to one S.C. circuit court judge, Clifton Newman.
Grand juries in the Palmetto State consist of twelve people who are selected (or impaneled) for a one-year term. Six additional grand jurors are chosen for two-year terms. These latter six grand jurors are called “carryover jurors,” because they are expected to carry over what they learned from one term to the next – creating some institutional knowledge of the proceedings.
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In the case of a statewide grand jury, authorization to impanel is needed from a presiding judge, the chief of SLED and either the attorney general of South Carolina or his designate.
“To be clear, a grand jury is not a trial,” I noted in a report a few years back explaining how the process works. “Whether at the state or county level, its members are not passing judgment on anyone accused of a crime. Witnesses and evidence are presented, to be sure, but there is no opportunity for (future) defendants or their attorneys to question evidence or cross-examine witnesses because the only determination the grand jury is asked to reach is whether probable cause exists for an individual to be charged with a crime.”
This is a developing story … please check back for updates.
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 Mets’ lid pictured above).
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