Prosecutors in the office of South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson are pushing back against a recent request from attorneys for accused killer Alex Murdaugh – who are seeking broad subpoena power in the hopes of obtaining “evidentiary and relevant” documents and other materials to aid them in preparing for Murdaugh’s defense.
According to a motion (.pdf) filed in Colleton County on Tuesday, Wilson and his deputies argued that Murdaugh’s attorneys – Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin – are attempting to obtain “exceptionally broad subpoena power to command the pre-trail production of documents relating to his defense without making public the subpoenas and placing the burden on the recipient to seek to obtain protection from the court after the subpoena has been served.”
Two weeks ago, Harpootlian and Griffin asked S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman to allow them to issue subpoenas for “the production of documents relating to the defense of Alex Murdaugh in advance of trial.”
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According to Harpootlian and Griffin’s motion (.pdf), such subpoena power would “level the playing field with the state,” which has been using the statewide grand jury to issue subpoenas for documents and other materials connected to the Murdaugh case.
“We are focused on the simple question of innocence or guilt,” Harpootlian told me at the time, rebuking critics who labeled his request a “fishing expedition.”
Murdaugh has been charged with two counts of murder and two counts of possessing a weapon during the commission of a violent crime in connection with the graphic June 7, 2021 slayings of his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and younger son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh.
In addition to the two murder charges, Murdaugh is also staring down a multitude of alleged financial crimes as well as drug charges and allegations of obstruction of justice tied to a fatal 2019 boat crash involving his late son. Additionally, he is facing fraud charges tied to a bizarre, botched suicide attempt last Labor Day in Hampton County.
There is also a public corruption investigation tied to this case.
Finally, Murdaugh is a codefendant in multiple civil cases, including a high-profile wrongful death lawsuit tied to the same boat crash.
All of those criminal and civil cases are taking place within the state court system – however, a federal investigation is also underway and has already produced indictments against one of Murdaugh’s alleged co-conspirators. In fact, that case has been ramping up in intensity in recent weeks.
Wilson and his deputies asserted this week that Newman has no authority to grant the subpoena power sought by Harpootlian and Griffin.
“No court has the ability by itself to grant Murdaugh the power he seeks,” the filing noted.
“Murdaugh asks this court to grant him unprecedented subpoena power for documents to be produced in advance of trial, a power which is not authorized or contemplated by the South Carolina rules of criminal procedure,” the filing (.pdf) added.
Specifically, Wilson and his deputies noted that any amendment to the rules of criminal procedure – which expressly forbid subpoenas to be issued outside of specified court proceedings – must originate from the legislature amending those rules.
“This court may not properly grant Murdaugh his requested unending power to command delivery outside of a specified court proceeding based on the clear and unambiguous language of the rule,” the state noted. “He is asking this court to do what even the five justices of the South Carolina supreme court are not authorized by our Constitution to do without legislative involvement.”
Harpootlian declined to comment Wednesday in response to the state’s opposition to his subpoena request on behalf of Murdaugh.
Murdaugh, 54, is a fourth generation member of the “House of Murdaugh” – a crumbling legal dynasty which has enjoyed near-dictatorial power over a five-county region in the southernmost tip of South Carolina for decades. Three generations of Murdaughs – including Alex’s late father, Randolph Murdaugh III – held the post of S.C. fourteenth circuit solicitor between 1920-2006.
Alex Murdaugh was a badge-carrying assistant solicitor in the office of his father’s successor, current S.C. fourteenth circuit solicitor Duffie Stone, at the time he allegedly murdered his wife and son.
THE FILING …FILED-States-Return-in-Opposition-to-Motion-for-Forthwith-Order.-10-4-22.-03117649xD2C78
(Via: S.C Attorney General)
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 many hats – including that St. Louis Cardinals’ lid (with matching Stan Musial jersey) pictured above.
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