South Carolina Judge Clifton Newman has ruled on dueling motions for disclosure of evidence in the murder cases involving former SC attorney Richard “Alex” Murdaugh.
During Monday’s hearing in Colleton County General Sessions Court, Judge Newman ruled that all evidence against Murdaugh must be disclosed by the prosecution to the defense, but also ruled that he issued a temporary injunction restricting the defense from release or share any of this information. Murdaugh was indicted on double murder and weapons charges on July 14 in the deaths of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, in June 2021.
In what is seen as a victory for the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, both sides came out of the blue in this legal battle, with raised voices and emotional outbursts stalling from the start.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
The legal back story
On August 16, Murdaugh’s attorneys, Richard Harpootlian and Jim Griffin, filed a “motion to compel” in hopes of forcing the state to turn over all the information they plan to use to prosecute Murdaugh under Rule 5 of the Criminal Rules SC proceedings, claiming they lack “100 percent” of evidence and this is delaying and hindering Murdo’s legal defense. A trial has been requested for January 2023.
Multiple South Carolina media outlets have reported that Harpootlian has issued subpoenas for state law enforcement to appear in court, and new information is expected to be discussed during today’s pretrial hearing. This story will be updated as new information is released or decisions are made.
What is planned for Monday’s hearing?
Judge Newman will consider that motion Monday and will likely rule on two new, related motions filed this week. At the heart of those moves is a discussion of a cell phone recording that may place Murdaugh at the scene of the murder earlier than he has reported, and contradicts the alibi he gave to state police, but may also contain a conversation who could help him. defense.
On August 18, prosecutors in the SC Attorney General’s Office filed their most recent motion seeking an order to unseal search warrants and seeking a temporary and, hopefully later, permanent general protective order that would seal all evidence from public release before the murder trial.
The Attorney General’s Office has said it will release discovery evidence and agree to restrictions only if the defense agrees to a gag order and protective orders to ensure a fair trial.
Murdaugh’s murders in the public eye
In that motion, the state argues that the Murdaugh murders have generated “significant public attention” and that much of the evidence in this case contains “sensitive information” that should remain protected until it can be used in court. The motion also asks that no sensitive information be left unprotected in the Richland County Jail with Murdaugh — he will only be allowed to see the evidence under supervision.
On August 22, Murdaugh’s defense team filed a motion opposing the state’s request, arguing that the state must establish a “good cause” for such a general protective order and calling it hypocritical, claiming that “For months, his prosecutors state selectively leaked information’ about items to various media outlets.
The defense cited media stories about a recording taken from Paul Murdaugh’s cell phone that allegedly placed Alex Murdaugh at the scene of the murders. The defense says it has since confirmed the existence of the video and audio recording, but added that it first learned about the potential evidence in news articles — not in the discovery process required by law.
The defense motion further states that on Wednesday, Aug. 17, SC law enforcement agents, acting at the direction of the Attorney General’s Office, played portions of the recording for family members of the families of the slain victims, and Murdaugh’s attorneys allege that this was doing so without obtaining a court order authorizing its disclosure.
In the counterattack, Murdaugh’s lawyers say the video was taken by Paul Murdaugh of a sick dog he was worried about, and Alex, Maggie and Paul are captured having a “polite, light-hearted” conversation in the background with “absolutely no clue dispute or disagreement,” but adds that the state did not leak that detail about the recording to the media because it wanted to “portray Alex Murdaugh in the worst possible light.”
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Finally, Harpootlian and Griffin claim that because of the State’s denial of discovery, they are limited to a “pleading motion practice” for the evidence, and this is “grossly unfair” to their client and in violation of his constitutional rights.
On the night of the murders, Murdaugh told 911 dispatchers and police that he had walked away from the house and found the unresponsive bodies of Maggie and Paul lying on the ground near the dog kennels after they had been shot.
Murdaugh also faces more than 90 other criminal charges and is being held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on $7 million bail that he has been unable to post since his assets were seized and placed under court order. from 11 pending civil lawsuits.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
This article originally appeared in Greenville News: Alex Murdaugh murder case? Judge: data must be shared, but protected