Attorneys for accused killer/ disbarred South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh have filed a motion asking the presiding judge in this high-profile double homicide case to exclude “false testimony” which it claims was “intentionally withheld” from defense counsel.
The voluminous 96-page filing actually goes further than that – asking S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman to prohibit prosecutors in the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson from “presenting manipulated opinion testimony contradicted by exculpatory evidence that the state has destroyed in bad faith.”
Wow … manipulated testimony? Evidence destroyed in bad faith?
Is any of this true?
“You can claim anything in a motion trying to defend a client,” a source close to the investigation told me in response to the filing. “Doesn’t make it true. If that’s his position, that’s his position.”
The motion (.pdf) was submitted on Murdaugh’s behalf by his attorneys, state senator Dick Harpootlian and veteran Columbia, S.C. trial lawyer Jim Griffin. It was filed in Colleton County at 12:02 p.m. EST on Wednesday (November 23, 2022) – just as most of the state was either traveling or preparing to host Thanksgiving gatherings.
The detailed motion represents the latest thrust from Harpootlian and Griffin – who are no strangers to dropping bombshells in their bid to get Murdaugh off on the two murder raps he is currently staring down.
To recap: Sometime after 8:44 p.m. EDT on June 7, 2021, state prosecutors say Murdaugh savagely dispatched his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and younger son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh, near the property’s dog kennels.
(Click to view)
Paul Murdaugh (above) was hit by a pair of shotgun blasts on that fateful evening – one to the head, the other to the arm and chest. Maggie Murdaugh was killed by multiple rounds from a semi-automatic rifle at or around the time her son was killed. At least two of Maggie Murdaugh’s gunshot wounds were inflicted as she was lying wounded on the ground – consistent with initial reports we received of “execution-style” slayings.
Wilson’s spokesman Robert Kittle told me attorneys for the state planned to address the allegations contained in Harpootlian and Griffin’s filing with their own motion, which they expected to submit sometime next week.
“We will reply with a filing of our own next week,” Kittle said.
SLED chief Mark Keel issued a rare – albeit brief – public statement in response to the filing.
“We are reviewing the motion and will respond at the appropriate time,” Keel said.
Another source familiar with the case told me to pay close attention to the numerous redactions contained in the defense filing.
“Look at what they aren’t showing you,” the source said.
The source added the state was looking forward to presenting its evidence in open court rather than trying the case in the media – which, ironically, was the very allegation leveled against investigators and prosecutors by Murdaugh’s attorneys.
“The state immediately decided Alex was guilty, before anyone collected, investigated or reviewed any evidence and, unable to build a solid case against Murdaugh to present in court, instead engaged in a campaign of selective and deceptive leaks to news media to convince the public that Murdaugh is guilty before he is tried,” Harpootlian and Griffin wrote.
Specifically, the filing referenced an April 2022 report from our former news director Mandy Matney in which sources familiar with the ongoing investigation stated an article of clothing allegedly worn by Murdaugh on the night his wife and son were murdered contained “a significant amount of high-velocity impact spatter on it from at least one of their bodies.”
Numerous subsequent reports have stated this was “blood spatter,” however this news outlet has repeatedly pushed back against such a characterization of the evidence.
FITSNews has never stated the spatter we reported on involved blood – nor did we identify which of the two victims it allegedly came from. In fact, I have always corrected those who have stated it was blood – using the precise term provided to us by multiple sources familiar with the status of the inquiry, “high-velocity impact spatter.”
In debunking alleged blood evidence, though, defense attorneys referenced reports prepared by forensic consultant Tom Bevel, documents which “opine(d) that the white cotton T-shirt Murdaugh wore the night Maggie and Paul were murdered (was) stained with high-velocity blood spatter, most likely resulting from (Alex) shooting Paul.”
“Neither the defense nor Bevel have been able to perform any tests on the shirt because the state destroyed it,” the motion alleged.
Wait … what?
Why would they have done that? According to the filing, the state conducted Leuco-crystal Violet (LCV) testing – a well-known method of uncovering bloodstains which are not directly visible – on the shirt Murdaugh wore on that fateful night. As a result of this testing, though, the shirt turned “completely blue” over time and the features of its stains were “lost forever.”
(Click to view)
(Via: S.C. Fourteenth Judicial Circuit)
“SLED elected to conduct its tests in a manner that would prevent anyone else from conducting subsequent tests,” Harpootlian and Griffin alleged, referring to the LCV testing.
The filing also implied David Owen – the “lead investigator” on this case for the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – pressured Bevel to “change his opinion entirely” on the evidence found on the shirt.
According to Harpootlian and Griffin, “SLED’s confirmatory blood testing results were negative for human blood in the areas of the shirt where Mr. Bevel opines blood spatter is present.”
Bevel’s final report “states exactly the opposite opinion regarding blood spatter that is in the initial report, even though no additional evidence was available that was not available in January when the state sent its evidence to Bevel,” according to the filing.
Murdaugh’s attorneys asked the state to send the shirt “to an outside laboratory so that microscopic photographs could be taken of the areas where Bevel claims blood spatter is present.”
“This would enable Murdaugh’s consulting experts to examine the features and details of the stains to assess whether the stains are characteristic of high-velocity blood spatter, whether they are characteristic of other means by which small droplets of blood may be deposited on a shirt, or whether (as SLED has already confirmed) they are not blood or blood-containing tissue at all,” Harpootlian and Griffin wrote.
This request was made on November 4 and again on November 11, according to the filing. On November 17, prosecutors responded and on November 21 Murdaugh’s attorney were allowed to view the shirt “in a room at SLED’s laboratory facilities in Columbia.”
Upon seeing the condition of the shirt, Harpootlian and Griffin filed their motion.
The defense alleged the destruction of evidence by the state “in bad faith” was a due process violation, and requested Newman hold a pre-trial hearing to address the matter – claiming the blood spatter analyst changed his report at the request of SLED, after the agency “lied” to the expert.
THE MOTION …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
(Via: Phillippe Randolph Folks)
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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