Attorneys for accused killer Alex Murdaugh want to put the brakes on the main civil case against their client while the high-profile murder trial against him proceeds.
Their argument? That the civil case – a wrongful death action stemming from a fatal 2019 boat crash – could unearth incriminating information against Murdaugh which prosecutors in the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson could then use to help them make their murder case.
Is that argument valid? Absolutely …
“Alex Murdaugh will certainly be prejudiced if discovery is not stayed and the upcoming trial is not continued,” Murdaugh attorneys Jim Griffin and Dick Harpootlian wrote in a motion filed last Friday (August 5, 2022).
In the criminal case, “discovery is very limited,” Griffin and Harpootlian noted.
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“Neither the state nor the defendant has a right to conduct depositions, serve interrogatories and serve pre-trial third party subpoenas,” Griffin and Harpootlian added. “Furthermore, the scope of discovery under the state(’s) criminal rules is very narrow, as opposed to the civil discovery rules.”
Griffin and Harpootlian don’t have an especially good record of winning motions in the various civil or criminal hearings linked to the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga – however they might just prevail in this one. Of course, their argument revolves not so much around Murdaugh’s presumed innocence in the June 7, 2021 murders of 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh and 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh as it does around the question of motive.
“The state has yet to articulate any logical motive for Alex Murdaugh to have murdered his wife and son,” the lawyers wrote in their filing. “The state does not have the ability to depose Murdaugh or even call him before a grand jury to question him about these relationships, to explore possible theories of motive.”
If the civil case is allowed to proceed, however, the state would be able to question Murdaugh and explore those theories “through private counsel.”
“Undoubtedly, Alex Murdaugh will be questioned about his relationship with both Maggie and Paul,” Harpootlian and Griffin wrote. “If he choose to answer, this will give the state an unfair advantage, one to which the state criminal rules do not permit. On the other hand, if he chooses to assert his Fifth Amendment privilege to prevent the state from obtaining detailed information about those relationship(s) in advance of his murder trial, then this assertion will be used to his prejudice in the civil case.”
A hearing on this motion has been scheduled for 2:00 p.m. EDT this Wednesday (August 10, 2022) at the Spartanburg County courthouse. S.C. circuit court judge Daniel Hall will preside over the arguments.
Murdaugh is one of multiple defendants in this wrongful death action – which stems from the fatal boat crash that killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton, S.C. more than three-and-a-half years ago.
To recap: Paul Murdaugh, while allegedly under the influence of alcohol, crashed his father Alex’s 17-foot, center console Sea Hunt fishing boat into a piling near the Archer’s Creek Bridge outside of Parris Island, S.C. shortly after 2:00 a.m. EDT on February 24, 2019.
Seconds before the boat crashed, GPS data obtained by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) indicated the vessel was traveling at a speed of approximately 29 miles per hour (or approximately 25 knots).
For more on that incident, click here.
THE FILING …motion-to-stay
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.
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