Murdaugh attorneys seek ‘bill of particulars’ on motive in killings

Attorneys representing former Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh are asking the state to provide details on their theory of motive.
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 5:08 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 6, 2022 at 6:19 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Attorneys representing former Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh are asking the state to provide details on their theory of motive.

Murdaugh is charged in the June 7, 2021, shooting deaths of his wife, Maggie, and their youngest son, Paul at the family’s rural property in Colleton County.

In a motion dated Monday, Murdaugh attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin asked for a “bill of particulars” from the state that would detail the reason they believe Murdaugh would have killed his own wife and son. The motion seeks “sufficient particularity to allow the defense to identify relevant inculpatory or exculpatory evidence in advance of trial,” court documents state.

The defense team argues the state should provide the information to “avoid unnecessarily extending the trial by weeks.”

Court documents state the request is one commonly used in federal court and was commonly used in the past in South Carolina, even though it is not on the books in state law.

But the defense argues it remains available in criminal cases “to advise the defendant more fully of the charge against him.”

The defense further argues that if the various financial crimes are relevant to a possible motive in the Murdaugh killings, which it claims the state has suggested, “the complexity of the murder case is enormous, encompassing millions of pages of documents and over 80 alleged financial crimes.” But, it says, the indictment “provides no clarity whatsoever as to how these millions of pages are relevant to the murders” and says the amount of evidence “demands some guidance from the state as to relevance.”

“Until now, this state has never had a prosecution in which millions of pages of documents purportedly supporting over 80 counts of various financial crimes allegedly committed by the defendant are declared to be, in some vague way, ‘inextricably intertwined’ with murder charges against the same defendant,” the defense claims. “If the defense must wait until trial to discover what (if anything) that means, the result will be an extension of trial by weeks and continuances within the trial, while defense counsel review documents and make motions under Rules 403 and 404 of the South Carolina Rules of Evidence, while the state responds, and while the court hears and rules on motions.”

Meanwhile, the state filed a response to a separate defense motion that Murdaugh be allowed to be unshackled during hearings leading up to the murder trial.

The defense filed that motion early last week, cited U.S. Supreme Court cases that have forbidden shackling criminal defendants during a trial without “a special need” because shackling is “an inherently prejudicial practice” and “should be permitted only where justified by an essential state interest specific to each trial.”

The state’s short response stated it would “leave matters of security in the sound judgment of this court as informed by the police officers responsible for safety in the courtroom.”

The murder trial is expected to begin in January.