By Andy Ann
In preparation for disbarred attorney Richard “Alex” Murdaugh’s murder trial, the South Carolina state prosecution team is led by Creighton Waters. The criminal defense team is led by Jim Griffin and Richard “Dick” Harpootlian. The Honorable Clifton Newman will be the judge presiding over the trial.
Throughout the last half of 2022 both the prosecutors and defense attorneys have filed numerous pre-trial motions in preparation for the murder trial set to take place in the Colleton County Courthouse, with jury selection starting the week of January 23, 2023, in Walterboro.
ON FRIDAY, OCT. 14, 2022, the defense filed a motion to force the state prosecutors to turn over polygraph evidence from an interview with Curtis “Eddie” Edward Smith on Thursday, May 5. (Smith has been charged in connection with Alex Murdaugh with various financial and drug crimes.) This motion requested any possible evidence of Smith’s DNA that could be connected to the murder scene. The motion also alleged that Smith equivocated about other possible suspects in the murders during the test.
ON FRIDAY, DEC. 9, 2022, prosecutors made a claim that Murdaugh killed his wife, Maggie, and his son, Paul, to garner sympathy and deter accountability for his financial trouble. Murdaugh’s defense counsel has rejected the claims. Murdaugh has been indicted for multiple financial and drug-related charges, allegedly stealing from his law firm associates and scores of clients.
ON MONDAY, DEC. 19, 2022, the defense attorneys filed a memorandum opposing the prosecutors’ claims for using this motive and any such evidence throughout the trial. As a response, the state prosecutors’ memorandum claims that Murdugh’s financial crimes are interconnected with motives for murder with evidence connecting the two.
ON WEDNESDAY, DEC. 28, 2022, the state prosecutors filed two motions to exclude the evidence from the polygraph test along with any mention of the polygraph during any portion of the trial and any other evidence or the mention of that suggests any possible “third-party guilt” that may be irrelevant, unreliable, or damaging.
The state prosecutors have made new allegations that Murdaugh’s associates at the law firm had discovered the embezzlement from the firm at a much earlier time than originally suspected. The law firm associates confronted Murdaugh on Tuesday, June 7, 2021, which is the same day that the double murders took place. Prosecutors alleged this confrontation is what ultimately triggered Murdaugh to commit the murders to slow down internal investigations and buy him some time to borrow money to cover his tracks.
In the upcoming trial, Smith has been ordered to appear as a witness subpoenaed by the state.
In preparation for the trial, per an order from Judge Newman in a hearing in December 2022, the portrait of Alex Murdaugh’s grandfather, Randolph “Buster” Murdaugh Jr. will be removed from the courtroom prior to the trial.
The City of Walterboro, Colleton County officials, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), local police enforcement, and courthouse staff have been in the planning process for several weeks with safety and daily city operations in mind.
During court proceedings, digital and electronic devices will not be permitted such as cell phones, apple watches, iPads, laptops, e-books, recording devices, and cameras inside. The only exception will be Court TV, which is the only media outlet streaming the trial, and other courthouse personnel. Other items that are prohibited include liquids, gels, newspapers, lighters, matches, or anything else that would activate the metal detectors. Only clear bags will be permitted and subject to searches. (As provided from the Colleton County Clerk of Court webpage.)
As the trial opens, the courtroom will open daily to the public at 8 a.m. with proceedings starting around 9 a.m. Walterboro Police Department (WPD) and Colleton County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) officers will be directing traffic, managing pre-designated parking areas, and heavily patrolling the area and streets throughout the length of the trial.
The Walterboro Wildlife Center, across from the courthouse will also serve as a collective hub center for many media outlets and news agencies that are expected to arrive shortly before the trial begins and remain until the trial comes to an end. Court TV will provide the single live-streamed source of the court proceedings for all news outlets and the public.
Local small business owners with food trucks have been requested to help meet the additional influx of people coming into the area for the duration of the trial. The food trucks will be set up in the parking next to the Walterboro Wildlife Center.
For more information visit www.colletoncounty.org/clerk-court/murdaugh-trial.