Prosecutors in the office of U.S. attorney Adair Ford Boroughs responded on Wednesday afternoon to a request for a new trial from convicted fraudster Russell Laffitte– the disgraced banker who played a key role in the financial component of the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga.
In a voluminous 56-page motion, prosecutors Emily Limehouse, Winston Holliday and Kathleen Stoughton rebuked Laffitte’s “belated and meritless” claim that his constitutional rights were denied as a result of some questionable eleventh hour jury reshuffling by U.S. district court judge Richard Gergel.
Laffitte, 51, of Hampton, S.C., was found guilty last month of bank fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and misapplying bank funds related to his role in the alleged financial scams of disbarred lawyer/ accused killer Alex Murdaugh. In addition to the federal convictions – which could land him behind bars for up to thirty years – there are still more than twenty Murdaugh-related state charges also pending against the former chief executive officer of Palmetto State Bank (PSB).
Was Laffitte’s conviction on the level, though?
Two jurors were removed by Gergel and replaced with alternates during a chaotic day of deliberation in U.S. district court in Charleston, S.C. on November 22, 2022. Laffitte’s lawyers – Bart Daniel and Matt Austin – claim these jurors were “improperly dismissed” by the judge.
Moments before being replaced, one of the jurors submitted a note to Gergel indicating they were “feeling pressured to change (their) vote.”
“Her removal constitutes a miscarriage of justice,” Daniel and Austin wrote in a pleading submitted to the court earlier this month.
Attorneys for the government fired back at that assertion, saying Gergel “properly exercised (his) discretion.”
“The court did not abuse its discretion by replacing two jurors, who were unable to perform their duties, with still-sequestered alternates,” the prosecutors wrote in their response (.pdf). “The record clearly demonstrates that the court, after inviting the parties’ input, appropriately exercised its discretion to empanel two alternate jurors to replace jurors who could no longer serve.”
Or at least the discussion about it in open court …
What happened in the jury room? We still don’t know … but the two jurors removed by Gergel have submitted sworn statements to Laffitte’s attorneys attesting to their version of events.
Yesterday (December 20, 2022), Laffitte’s attorneys filed a new motion in this case – one referencing a pair of affidavits submitted by the two jurors. Gergel sealed those affidavits on Wednesday at the request of Laffitte’s lawyers.
Sources familiar with the two affidavits told this news outlet they detailed the “chaos” which overtook deliberations – including alleged bullying on the part of certain jury members against two vocal holdouts. The sworn statements are expected to become critical components of Laffitte’s bid to get a new trial – although as I have previously noted, based on the evidence and testimony introduced during the initial proceedings, his lawyers are still fighting an uphill battle.
RELATED | RUSSELL LAFFITTE SEEKS NEW TRIAL
As I have frequently noted, Limehouse, Holliday and Stoughton delivered “an absolute tour de force” at last month’s trial, “methodically, meticulously making a compelling case on each of the six charges filed against him.”
Prosecutors “introduced damning documents and elicited incriminating testimony not only from government witnesses, but also from many of the witnesses called to the stand on Laffitte’s behalf.”
Meanwhile, Laffitte’s effort to prove a broader conspiracy – one in which he was a mere “pawn” of Murdaugh and others – largely fell flat.
Gergel has yet to schedule a hearing on Laffitte’s request for a new trial. As soon as that happens, we will let our readers know.
In addition to deciding Laffitte’s fate, this trial also had significant impacts on the upcoming double homicide trial of Alex Murdaugh. Specifically, it provided state prosecutors with their theory of motive in that case – in which Murdaugh stands accused of savagely slaying his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and their younger son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh.
The double homicide trial is set to begin on January 23, 2023 in Walterboro, S.C.
THE FILING …
(Via: U.S. District Court)
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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