COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Lawyers for disgraced former attorney Alex Murdaugh filed a motion Tuesday requesting the state disclose what they will argue Murdaugh’s motive was for allegedly killing his wife and son as both sides prepare for the January murder trial.
Murdaugh is accused of fatally shooting his wife and son at their family property in June of 2021. He has also been indicted on over 80 financial crimes.
The motion asks for a bill of particulars, a “now-dormant” practice in South Carolina, which “enables a defendant to obtain sufficient information on the nature of the charge against him so that he may prepare for trial, minimize the danger of surprise at trial, and enable him to plead his acquittal or conviction in bar of another prosecution for the same offense.”
Murdaugh’s lawyers claim that the state has produced over 1.2 million documents relating to alleged financial crimes, which the state claims are “‘inextricably linked’ to the murder of his wife and son.'” However, the documents “do not contain direct evidence of Mr. Murdaugh’s guilt. Their only possible relevance is motive.”
In order to prepare for the trial and “avoid unnecessarily extending the trial by weeks,” Murdaugh’s defense is asking the state to clarify how those documents are relevant to the case “with reasonable particularity.”
“For example, it would not be helpful to aver only that ‘the motive for the murders was to conceal financial crimes.’ But it could be helpful if the state also gave some general statement about how the murders would conceal the alleged financial crimes: Had Maggie and Paul threatened to expose them? Was Mr. Murdaugh purportedly attempting some specific act of concealment that their murders could have facilitated? Were the murders merely meant to distract from the investigation of the financial crimes?”
The motion is careful to note that it is not asking the state “to identify specific evidence and explain how that supports its theory of motive. That is a task for trial (or a motion in limine), and to force the state to do so now … would be improper.”
However, defense argues it would also be improper “to ambush Mr. Murdaugh at trial with a surprise theory about how some unproven non-violent prior bad act should be admitted as evidence he murdered his wife and son, while claiming the defense was given notice of the purported evidence just because the state dumped 1.2 million pages of documents of unknown relevance on the defense.”
Murdaugh is expected in court Friday for a pretrial status hearing. The murder trial is expected to begin on Jan. 23, 2022.