Prosecutors push for alleged financial crimes as evidence, ask for exclusions in Murdaugh trial

Despite the holiday season, the state continues to file documents in the trial against Alex Murdaugh.
Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 3:23 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 29, 2022 at 8:25 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Despite the holiday season, the state continues to file documents in the trial against Alex Murdaugh.

The start date for the trial against the disbarred Lowcountry lawyer is rapidly approaching, with just 25 days left until Jan. 23.

Prosecutors filed two new motions as well as a response to the defense’s rejection of state evidence of financial crimes on Wednesday.

State responds to Defense’s rejection of financial crime evidence

In a new document, prosecutors doubled down on their motion to include all the documented financial crimes Murdaugh has been indicted for by the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office.

The filing, which is the longest of three submitted to the court on Dec. 28, goes into extreme detail on each of the points made by the defense in its response to prosecutors’ initial filing from Dec. 19.

During a recent hearing, Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters presented the state’s theory on motive, that Murdaugh murdered his wife and son as a distraction tactic to avoid accountability for the millions he had stolen from friends, family, clients and his former firm, PMPED, to maintain his prominent lifestyle.

The defense team, led by Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin argued in its response that there isn’t a clear enough connection between the alleged financial crimes and the murders for them to be submitted as evidence, calling the theory “absurd.”

The state wrote, “[d]efendant , having been provided a clear roadmap of the State’s evidence already in his possession, protests—as he must—that he cannot follow said map despite its clarity,” adding that “[d]efendant proclaims that no part of the perfect storm looming over him on June 7, 2022, nor the combination of its squalls, could have blown open the scope of his crimes to public view and condemnation.”

READ MORE: The Murdaugh Cases

Prosecutors argue that the defense’s protests are “unsupported by law or fact” and prove the state’s motive theory, that Murdaugh murdered and plotted in an effort to create “self-victimization for gain,” in it of itself.

Several points made in the first filing are reiterated, including that on the day of the murders a law firm employee had confronted Murdaugh about missing funds related to his client, Chris Wilson, and an impending court hearing in the Mallory Beach civil lawsuit would have required Murdaugh to show his financials that would have ultimately exposed his misdeeds.

The state uses evidence presented in grand jury proceedings to continue to make its case.

The state also repeated its argument to include evidence related to the Sept. 4 suicide-for-hire plot involving alleged co-conspirator Curtis Eddie Smith because it mirrors Murdaugh’s conduct on the day of the murders.

Prosecutors say that despite the time bought by Murdaugh in these two incidents to maintain his lifestyle, his fear became true. The financial crimes were eventually exposed and Murdaugh did indeed fall from grace.

The document ends with the state writing, “if Defendant wishes to avoid too fine a detail regarding the thefts he has already admitted he committed, he is welcome to formalize his admissions by pleading guilty before this Court, and thus relieve the State of its obligation to prove the crimes by clear and convincing evidence.”

State asks the court to exclude polygraph evidence

Another filing from prosecutors asks the court to order that any evidence related to polygraphs be excluded from trial. The document highlights a “highly publicized” filing from the defense earlier this year, pointing the finger at Murdaugh’s alleged drug dealer and associate Smith as a possible suspect in the murder case.

The defense team wrote that Smith failed a lie detector test conducted by SLED in May 2022, specifically when asked about the murders. In the new document prosecutors write “the State expects Defendant to attempt to broach the subject at trial by any means necessary.”

The state, however, argued that polygraph results are not reliable, nor do they detect lies but rather physiological responses and could affect the jury’s ability to make clear judgements.

In South Carolina, polygraphs are generally inadmissible as evidence.

Prosecutors file motion to exclude evidence related to third-party guilt

Finally, the state also has argued that any evidence related to third-party guilt should not allowed during the upcoming court proceedings.

Prosecutors wrote that it “only tends to raise a conjectural inference that the third party, rather than the defendant, committed the crime.”

The document references case law that establishes that third-party guilt can only be admissible if there is a clear connection as well as facts or circumstances that “tends to clearly to point out such other person as the guilty party.”

Prosecutors claimed that this evidence should not be submitted, so to prevent the jury’s judgement from being clouded by the polarizing practice.