Alex Murdaugh attorneys plan to appeal verdict
WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - The defense attorneys who represented disbarred Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh during his murder trial have said they plan to appeal his conviction.
Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin told reporters they plan to file a notice of intention to appeal within 10 days. They must wait to receive a transcript of the trial, which they said “will take a while.” At that point, they plan to file the appeal.
Both said they believe all of the financial crimes Judge Clifton Newman allowed in as evidence should not have been heard by the jury.
“Once they got that character information in that he’s a thief, he’s a liar, then it dictated this jury had to think he was a despicable human being and not to be believed. So it was about character, it wasn’t about motive. So as a result, our options were limited,” Harpootlian said. “Look, they won this case the day the judge bought into letting them put every piece of, you know, stealing from kids who lost their mother, from somebody with pancreatic cancer, somebody that’s a paraplegic. I mean, all of that two and a half weeks, by the time they got done with it, it didn’t matter about final argument. It didn’t matter about what we put up. He was, they would never ever, ever acquit him after that.”
Harpootlian said they debated about whether Murdaugh should take the stand in his own defense.
“He always wanted to take the stand,” Harpootlian said. “But once that information was in, I mean, if he had to take the stand to explain the kennel video, the lie, if you will, all of his credibility had been stripped away by the financial misdeeds.”
Reporters questioned why Murdaugh’s surviving son, Buster, did not speak ahead of the sentencing in an effort to help his father.
“We could have had Mother Teresa up there speaking on behalf of Alex at sentencing,” Griffin said. “I mean, he was getting a double life sentence. That was expected. I mean, this is Judge Newman. He’s a very stringent punisher when it comes to crimes and sentences. I mean, that that was never in dispute. And so for Buster to get up and speak on his dad’s behalf, would not have made a difference. And why do you want to put that kid through more trauma that then anybody that we can imagine has ever been through?”
The news conference comes after Judge Clifton Newman sentenced Murdaugh to two consecutive life terms for the June 7, 2021, murders of his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh; and their youngest son, 22-year-old Paul Murdaugh.
Newman asked Murdaugh if he had anything he wanted to say before the sentencing.
“As I tell you again, I respect this court. But I am innocent. I would never under any circumstances hurt my wife Maggie and I would never under any circumstances hurt my son Paul-Paul,” Murdaugh said.
“And it might not have been you. It might have been the monster you become when you take 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 opioid pills. Maybe you become another person,” Newman replied, noting Murdaugh’s decadeslong addiction to painkillers.
Prosecutor Creighton Waters said none of the victims of the crime — members of Murdaugh’s family and the parents and relatives of his wife — wished to speak on behalf of the prosecution before sentencing.
“The depravity, the callousness, the selfishness of these crimes are stunning. The lack of remorse and the effortless way in which he is, including here, sitting right over there in this witness stand — your honor, a man like that, a man like this man, should never be allowed to be among free, law abiding citizens,” Waters said.
Prosecutors asked for a life sentence to hold Murdaugh responsible for what they say are decades of lying, stealing and using his family’s considerable clout in their tiny county to his advantage. Any sentence would have no chance of parole.
Prosecutors praise guilty verdict
Outside the courthouse a short time after jurors unanimously convicted Murdaugh in the killings, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson praised the verdict.
“Today’s verdict proves your position and power in life do not matter: no one is above the law, and that includes Alex Murdaugh,” Wilson said. “It’s been a long six weeks, but Maggie and Paul Murdaugh deserved justice, and they certainly did not deserve to brutally die at the hands of someone who was supposed to love and protect them. Alex Murdaugh’s house of cards, built on the foundation of lies, manipulation, and theft, came crashing down. Let this be a warning: no matter who you are, if you break the law, the truth will come out and you will be brought to justice.”
Lead prosecutor Creighton Waters also thanked jurors and the prosecutorial team.
“Alex Murdaugh tried one last con to prevent the accountability he has never had to face in his life, but the jury saw through that and properly found he murdered his wife and son in cold blood,” he said.
SLED Chief: Murdaugh murder trial ’next step in the long road to justice’
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said it was important for him to speak out after Murdaugh’s sentencing to be the voice of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh.
“And today is not the end, it’s the next step in the long road to justice for every person who has been victimized by Alex Murdaugh,” Keel said.
Keel commended his agency’s efforts and the effort of other law enforcement and the attorney general’s office.
“SLED agents have worked tirelessly for the past nearly 21 months to ensure justice was served for Maggie and Paul,” Keel said.
The SLED chief said Thursday and Friday were great days or justice before issuing a warning.
“This case serves as notice to anyone who aided or assisted Alex Murdaugh in committing any crime that justice will be sought,” Keel said.
Copyright 2023 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.