Prosecutors seeking to put disbarred attorney/ accused killer Alex Murdaugh behind bars for life scored a major win on Monday when South Carolina circuit court judge Clifton Newman ruled they could call witnesses, elicit testimony and introduce evidence related to various financial crimes of which Murdaugh stands accused.
Murdaugh allegedly killed his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and youngest son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh, on his family’s hunting property in Colleton County, S.C. on June 7, 2021. He pleaded not guilty and is currently standing trial in Walterboro, S.C. – part of the five-county Lowcountry region of the Palmetto State which his family once ran like a fiefdom.
In addition to this double homicide, Murdaugh is facing 99 individual charges related to “schemes to defraud victims” of nearly $10 million.
Prosecutors claim the potential exposure of Murdaugh’s financial crimes were a possible motive for murder – making this evidence admissible under Rule 404(b) of the South Carolina rules of criminal procedure. According to that rule, evidence of “other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person.”
However, the rule does permit such “prior bad acts” to be admitted in order “to show motive, identity, the existence of a common scheme or plan, the absence of mistake or accident, or intent.”
Newman concluded the state had met the threshold for the admission of this evidence, saying “the jury is entitled to hear whether the apparent desperation of Murdaugh due to his dire financial situation and threat of being exposed” was his motive for murder.
“This evidence is admissible,” Newman ruled, arguing the evidence was “more probative than prejudicial” and would “aid the jury in understanding the context in which the crime occurred.”
Newman’s ruling (.pdf) paves the way for jurors to hear testimony from multiple witnesses who have already provided incriminating testimony against Murdaugh outside the presence of the jury.
Those witnesses include …
Michael Gunn: Principal of Forge Consulting, a company Alex Murdaugh appears to have mimicked in an effort to fleece proceeds from legal settlements.
Jan Malinowski: President and chief executive officer of Palmetto State Bank. Malinowski’s predecessor, Russell Laffitte, has already been convicted of conspiring with Murdaugh to steal millions of dollars from his former clients.
Tony Satterfield: Son of Gloria Satterfield, the Murdaugh’s former housekeeper whose suspicious 2018 death led to a multi-million dollar settlement from Alex Murdaugh’s insurance providers. Murdaugh allegedly stole those settlement proceeds from Tony and his brother. In fact, Murdaugh has already confessed judgment in connection with the Satterfield case.
Jeanne Seckinger: The comptroller of Murdaugh’s former law firm, Peters Murdaugh Parker Eltzroth and Detrick (PMPED). Seckinger confronted Murdaugh about missing fees from a PMPED account on the day of the murders. She testified Murdaugh shot her a “glare” she had never seen before in more than two decades of working with him.
Mark Tinsley: The lead attorney in the 2019 boat crash case that claimed the life of 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton, S.C. Tinsley was suing Murdaugh in connection with his wrongful death action on behalf of Beach’s family, and a hearing was scheduled for June 10, 2021 regarding a motion to compel the production of Murdaugh’s financial information. Murdaugh was working a response to that motion on the day of the murders.
Chris Wilson: Murdaugh’s best friend and a fellow attorney who worked several cases with him. Wilson testified that Murdaugh stole nearly $200,000 from him in the days leading up to the murders – and acknowledged this theft months later.
THE RULING …
(Via: Colleton County Clerk of 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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