Convicted killer Alex Murdaugh is petitioning the South Carolina court system for a change of venue in the first of his state-level criminal proceedings tied to admitted financial misconduct – arguing he cannot receive a fair trial anywhere in the Palmetto State’s fourteenth judicial circuit.
“The defendant has received unprecedented media coverage since the murder of his wife and son in 2021,” Murdaugh’s attorneys argued in their motion. “(His) trial on the murder charges was broadcast live to multiple media outlets and seen by millions. The trial concluded in March 2023. Since then, there have been two docu-series devoted to the trial and two movies about (Murdaugh) have been released.”
The first state financial trial – which would address alleged financial crimes tied to Murdaugh’s admitted fleecing of two insurance companies – is set to begin on Monday, November 27, 2023 in Beaufort County, S.C. with circuit court judge Clifton Newman presiding. As our audience is well aware, however, Newman was the focus of a recent petition from Murdaugh’s lawyers arguing he should be barred from hearing any further Murdaugh-related cases owing to his alleged bias.
The S.C. supreme court has yet to address Murdaugh’s petition to remove Newman from these cases – which includes a recently filed motion for a new trial related to his double homicide conviction due to allegations of jury tampering.
Those allegations were discussed at length in the latest segment of our popular Week In Review program …
(Click to view)
Last week, state prosecutors fired back at those allegations – arguing a new trial was not warranted.
“Only Alex Murdaugh could conceive of such a confounded gambit as (being) even remotely plausible,” they noted in their response filing. “He is projecting his own calculating, manipulative psyche onto a dedicated public servant in an effort to save himself.”
According to the defense filing in Beaufort County, 147 of 167 jury pool questionnaires returned to the court thus far contained responses in which panel members “admitted having prior knowledge about (Murdaugh) and his criminal charges.”
“The exhaustive media coverage about (Murdaugh) has permeated Beaufort County,” Murdaugh’s attorneys rote. “Also, it is very unlikely that prospective jurors from any county in the circuit have bene less exposed to the Murdaugh media coverage than Beaufort County jurors.”
According to them, “transferring venue to another county in the circuit would not be an option” although they acknowledged it was “very doubtful” that citizens in the South Carolina Upstate “have not followed the coverage of (Murdaugh) as closely as the citizens in the Lowcountry.”
So where should the case be tried? And … when?
As our audience is well aware, Murdaugh is the central figure in the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga. Three generations of Murdaughs – including Alex’s late father, Randolph Murdaugh III – held the post of S.C. fourteenth circuit solicitor between 1920-2006. Murdaugh himself was a badge-carrying assistant solicitor – and past president of the influential S.C. trial lawyers lobby. The “House of Murdaugh” ran the Palmetto Lowcounty like a fiefdom for nearly a century – dispensing justice as it saw fit.
That fiefdom began to collapse in February 2019, however, when Murdaugh’s youngest son – the late Paul Murdaugh – allegedly crashed a boat belonging to his father into a piling near the Archer’s Creek Bridge outside of Parris Island, S.C. The crash killed 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton, S.C. – and exposed the Murdaugh family to the white hot glare of the statewide limelight for the first time. It also led to the filing of a high-profile wrongful death lawsuit which threatened to expose Murdaugh’s financial misdeeds.
According to state prosecutors, this “gathering storm” led to Murdaugh deciding to brutally murder his son Paul and his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, at Moselle – the family’s 1,700-acre hunting property straddling the Salkehatchie River on the border of Colleton and Hampton counties.
RELATED | INSIDE THE POST-TRIAL CHESS MOVES
Murdaugh was convicted of those murders in March of this year and sentenced to consecutive life terms by Newman. His appeal of those convictions – which centers on the admissibility of financial crimes evidence – is on hold pending the motion for a new trial.
Murdaugh is facing over a hundred individual charges related to “schemes to defraud victims” of nearly $10 million.
Murdaugh has already pleaded guilty to multiple financial crimes at the federal level. And during his testimony at his murder trial, he admitted to practically all of the financial crimes of which he currently stands accused.
His guilty plea was raised by his attorneys in their latest filing.
“What is the rush to dispose of this case before the end of 2023?” Murdaugh’s attorneys asked in their filing. “(Murdaugh) has entered a plea in federal court to the same conduct for which he will be tried in this case. The victims will have their day in court at (his) federal sentencing.”
They further argued that with nearly 6,200 criminal cases pending in the fourteenth circuit, “there is no good reason to try this case, or any other pending cases against (Murdaugh), ahead of older pending criminal cases.”
THE FILING …
(Via: S.C. Fourteenth Judicial Circuit)
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.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our articles? Or an issue you’d like to proactively address? We have an open microphone policy here at FITSNews! Submit your letter to the editor (or guest column) via email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.