South Carolina circuit court judge Clifton Newman ordered a “jury view” of the crime scene at Moselle – the location of the graphic double homicide at the heart of the trial of disbarred Palmetto State attorney Alex Murdaugh.
Newman’s order came in response to a request made Monday morning by Murdaugh’s lead attorney, Dick Harpootlian.
According to Harpootlian, “we believe it would be useful for the jury to visit Moselle – both the area of the kennels and the house – just to get some understanding of spatial relationships.”
“Moselle” is the local name of the Murdaugh family’s 1,700-acre hunting property – which straddles the Salkehatchie River between Hampton and Colleton counties near Islandton, S.C.
“(The jury view) needs to be done in an expeditious way,” Harpootlian added, referencing the impending conclusion of Murdaugh’s trial which appears on track to be handed to the jury by the end of the week.
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Murdaugh is the scion of an influential Lowcountry legal dynasty – a man who once led the Palmetto State’s powerful trial lawyers’ lobby. Today, he is in the middle of a maze of alleged criminality known as the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga.
In addition to a host of other alleged crimes (many of which he confessed to on the stand last week), Murdaugh is accused of killing 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 to those charges and is currently standing trial in Walterboro – part of the Lowcountry region of the Palmetto State which his famous family ruled like a fiefdom for more than a century.
Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters objected to the field trip request, saying “the scene is different than it existed on the night of June 7, 2021.”
“A big factor – which I think is very relevant to some of the issues here – is that the trees that were planted that separate the kennels from the house are markedly taller and thicker than they were on June 7,” Waters added.
Waters also objected to Harpootlian’s suggestion that jurors be allowed to decide for themselves whether to view the scene – saying he had “never heard” of a judge granting jurors such authority.
Newman wasted little time in granting Harpootlian’s motion.
“Upon request of either side, the court will allow a jury view,” Newman said. “If the defense wants a jury view, then the court will arrange a jury view.”
Newman declined to leave the matter up to the jury, though, saying a discussion of whether or not to undertake the field trip “could invite premature deliberations in the case.”
Newman added he would advise the jury that “as part of going to the scene, certain things may not be as they were two years ago.”
Harpootlian further requested the court ensure the scene was undisturbed at the time the jury arrived – citing recent allegations of trespassing on the property.
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“There were literally dozens of people at Moselle last weekend trespassing to get selfies in front of the feed room, I mean – the most distasteful kinds of things I’ve ever scene,” Harpootlian said. “Perhaps before they head out there some security could be (put) in place?”
“We will have law enforcement secure the scene and ensure no one is there,” Newman assured Harpootlian. “The scene will be secure.”
Colleton County deputies were reportedly already hard at work preparing for the field trip.
Moselle is under contract to be sold as part of the disposition of Murdaugh’s assets in connection with an ongoing civil complaint. Currently, those assets are under the control of court-appointed receivers. The property is currently being managed by Murdaugh’s brother, John Marvin Murdaugh.
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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