To Shackle Or Not To Shackle: Prosecutors In ‘Murdaugh Murders’ Case Don’t Seem To Care

Decision left in hands of judge Clifton Newman …

It didn’t strike me as a huge deal, but our report last week about whether accused killer Alex Murdaugh should be restrained by shackles during his pretrial appearances – and during his upcoming double murder trial in Colleton County, South Carolina – generated a significant response.

Given the savage nature of these crimes … is there a public safety concern regarding Murdaugh?

Or do his attorneys – state senator Dick Harpootlian and veteran Columbia, S.C. trial lawyer Jim Griffin – have a point when they argue there is “no specific, special need to shackle” Murdaugh during his courtroom appearances.

“He has not — and is not alleged to have – engaged in any behavior suggesting he is a threat to the courtroom or will somehow escape from it,” Harpootlian and Griffin wrote in their pleading (.pdf) last week before S.C. circuit court judge Clifton Newman.

What do state prosecutors think of this issue?

According to their two-sentence response to this motion, very little.

“As always, the state would leave matters of security in the sound judgment of (the judge) as informed by the police officers responsible for safety in the courtroom,” a filing from the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson noted.

Translation? The state is not articulating an objection to Harpootlian and Griffin’s motion … meaning we could be in store for a dramatic “unshackling” of Murdaugh at his next pretrial hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for this coming Friday (December 9, 2022).

FITSNews readers seem to be okay with that outcome. According to a poll we posted last week, 57 percent of our audience indicated they did not think Murdaugh needed to “be restrained by shackles when he appears in court.” Meanwhile, 39 percent said he should be shackled and roughly three percent indicated they were “unsure.”

Harpootlian and Griffin – who were caught a bit flat-footed at the outset of this case – have been on a roll in recent months, with their latest pleadings appearing to poke significant holes in the prosecution’s case against their client.

I say “appearing” … because as of this writing, prosecutors have yet to respond to allegations regarding so-called “manipulated opinion testimony contradicted by exculpatory evidence that the state has destroyed in bad faith.” Specifically, defense attorneys have accused agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) of bullying an Oklahoma-based forensic expert named Tom Bevel into changing his opinion regarding blood spatter evidence believed to be central to the prosecution’s case.

This revelation reportedly caught prosecutors off-guard, creating what one source described as “fresh tension” between investigators and prosecutors.



To recap: The double homicide Murdaugh stands accused of committing lies at the very heart of the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga. This still-unfolding Southern Gothic saga chronicles the fall of the “House of Murdaugh,” a powerful legal dynasty which ran the Palmetto State’s Lowcountry like its own fiefdom for more than a century.

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 their younger son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh, near the dog kennels on the family’s 1,700-acre hunting property – known locally as Moselle.

Paul Murdaugh 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 around the same 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.

Maggie Murdaugh’s body was found approximately thirty yards from the dog kennels where her son was murdered. Also found at the crime scene? Five spent .300 blackout cartridges and other ballistics evidence.

Murdaugh has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His trial is scheduled to begin in Colleton County on January 23, 2023.



(Via: FITSNews)

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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