South Carolina state senator Dick Harpootlian has no shortage of political pull – whether in the Palmetto State’s capital city or our nation’s capitol. He is also not shy when it comes to using that pull on behalf of his clients.
Harpootlian is used to getting his way, too … from judges as well as members of the (cough) “media.”
As Harpootlian navigates arguably the biggest case of his career, though, he is running into unexpected resistance. Or to put it another way, for the first time in his professional career judges are not buying his bullsh*t. Nor are they showing him the special treatment to which he has grown accustomed, as evidenced by the state supreme court’s lack of urgency in hearing a recent emergency motion he filed for habeas corpus.
For those of you unhip to dead languages, habeas corpus is Latin for “have the body,” meaning a court is seeking to have an individual who is detained on a certain charge (or sought for questioning) brought before them to discuss his or her detention status.
At least that’s what it means in this context …
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On November 10, 2021, Harpootlian and his fellow “bulldog” attorney Jim Griffin filed a petition for habeas corpus on behalf of 53-year-old Alex Murdaugh – the disgraced attorney at the heart of the sprawling ‘Murdaugh Murders’ true crime saga.
The petition was filed after this news outlet exclusively reported that S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman had formally denied bond to Murdaugh in connection with a pair of charges filed against him last month.
“The court finds the defendant is a danger to both himself and the community,” Newman said in his filing.
Three weeks previously, on October 22, 2021, Newman denied bond to Murdaugh on a pair of felony property theft charges tied to the suspicious death of Gloria Satterfield. Satterfield was the Murdaugh family’s housekeeper and nanny for more than two decades. She died on February 26, 2018 after a suspicious “trip and fall” incident at the family’s Colleton County home – the same property where Alex’s wife Maggie Murdaugh and youngest son Paul Murdaugh were found murdered on June 7, 2021.
Alex Murdaugh remains a “person of interest” in that double homicide investigation and either he, his influential family or the powerful local law firm it founded – Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick (PMPED) – are being looked at in connection with at least six other criminal inquiries.
Since Newman’s November 10 order, Murdaugh has been further indicted by the S.C. statewide grand jury on an additional 27 charges linked to various alleged financial crimes. He remains detained at the Alvin S. Glenn detention center in Richland County, South Carolina. No bond hearing has been set on the latest round of charges filed against him.
In their November 10 petition to the court, Harpootlian and Griffin wrote that “the South Carolina Constitution guarantees every person the right to be released on bail, pending trial, except persons charged with capital offenses, offenses punishable by life imprisonment or violent offenses as defined by the General Assembly.”
They asked the supreme court to consider the pleading expeditiously.
Has that happened? No …
“They are definitely not rushing on his habeas petition,” a source close to the justices told me last weekend. “He’s ‘in line.’ No special treatment. It’s gonna be a hot minute.”
“He’s in the queue just like any other prisoner,” the source continued. “So far, the court is not entertaining a single favor for him.”
When will the justices hear the case? Good question … as of this writing, Murdaugh’s appeal is likely to come before the court in early December. It is unclear, however, whether justices will rule on the merits of the pleading or ask attorneys involved in the case to appear before them and make their arguments.
“I don’t know if they will grant him an oral argument,” the source told me.
Also, justices must consider the latest batch of charges filed against Murdaugh – as well as any charges that might be filed against him prior to them hearing his habeas motion – in deciding whether he should be released from jail.
Bottom line? It’s a lot to think about … although so far, the court doesn’t appear to be in much of a hurry to begin deliberating.
Which is in and of itself yet another blow to Murdaugh’s high-powered legal defense team …
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 Washington Nationals’ lid pictured above).
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