COLUMBIA — Alex Murdaugh's defense attorneys have filed a flurry of motions over the past week accusing state prosecutors of withholding evidence in their client's double-murder case and mocking the 13-month investigation that led to his July indictment.
On Oct. 19, ahead of a showdown at the Florence County Courthouse, the S.C. Attorney General's Office fired back.
State Grand Jury Chief Prosecutor Creighton Waters blasted Murdaugh attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin in an afternoon filing, writing that Murdaugh's high-powered defense team didn't mention any concerns about pre-trial discovery during a "pleasant and reasonable conversation" on Oct. 13 before suddenly filing an "aggressive and misleading motion to compel (evidence) just one day later."
Murdaugh's defense team already has some of the evidence it seeks, and it could have gotten other evidence merely by asking for it, Waters said.
“Again," Waters wrote, "this manner of conducting litigation says a lot about the defense’s true motives here, and the Court should not be moved by such tactics.”
Waters also accused Murdaugh's attorneys of overhyping a May polygraph examination that detected "attempted deception" when Curtis Edward Smith, a reported accomplice in Murdaugh's alleged drug- trafficking and money-laundering schemes, denied any involvement in the grisly slayings of Murdaugh's wife and son.
Murdaugh's attorneys cited that test as evidence Smith — not Murdaugh — is the real killer, even as prosecutors consider having Smith testify against Murdaugh in the upcoming trial.
Such tests are generally not admissible in court, Waters noted, before accusing Murdaugh's legal team of misinterpreting the significance of the results.
“This result could easily happen from one who merely has not disclosed everything they know about the situation or feels guilty about circumstances leading up to it, without necessarily having any involvement in a specific crime whatsoever,” the prosecutor wrote. “It appears that Defendant’s experienced team of defense lawyers do not understand how polygraphs work or they are vastly overstating their point to this Court and for public consumption.”
Harpootlian declined to comment on the filing, saying he would discuss it at a hearing set for 10:30 a.m. Oct. 20 in Florence County.
There, Circuit Judge Clifton Newman is set to delve into the latest disputes in the case, which is destined for a three-week trial starting Jan. 23 in Walterboro.
The Murdaugh case is among the most closely watched criminal matters in state history, producing a parade of bizarre twists and turns in the 16 months since Alex Murdaugh called 911 just after 10 p.m. on June 7, 2021, to report finding Maggie and Paul Murdaugh shot to death.
A Colleton County grand jury charged Murdaugh himself with their murders in July, a conclusion Murdaugh and his defense team have adamantly denied.
Since then, Murdaugh's attorneys and the Attorney General's Office have repeatedly sparred over what evidence prosecutors must provide in pretrial discovery.
Murdaugh's filings have invariably criticized the investigation itself, claiming the state's evidence against the disbarred Hampton lawyer is weak and shows investigators focused too narrowly on Murdaugh, their prime suspect.
In his Oct. 19 response, Waters noted the state has turned over more than three-quarters of a terabyte of digital information and data to Murdaugh's team, including some evidence that the defense lawyers have requested in recent filings.
"If they need help finding it," Waters wrote of evidence from a search of Smith's cellphone, which Murdaugh's lawyers recently requested, "the State will be glad to help. There is no issue."
The state has provided other evidence in the days since Murdaugh's lawyers filed their motions, Waters said. "There is no issue," he repeatedly wrote in the filing, stressing that Murdaugh's defense team needed only to ask for the information or request help finding it in the files already provided.
"No one — on the State side at least — is hiding anything here," Waters wrote.