A hearing in the double murder trial of a prominent South Carolina attorney accused of killing his wife and son turned into a shouting match Monday as both sides squabbled over what prosecutors called “million-dollar” evidence.
The argument was just the latest twist in the case of Alex Murdaugh, the once-powerful legal scion who also stands accused of stealing more than $8 million from clients, co-running a $2 million money laundering and drug ring, and trying to arrange his own death so his surviving son could collect on a $10 million life insurance policy.
Murdaugh’s defense team on Monday got Judge Clifton Newman to order prosecutors to turn over evidence they’ve been trying to keep secret, South Carolina newspaper the State reported.
Newman also issued a protective order — barring much of the materials from public dissemination — after prosecutor Creighton Waters made the strange claim that some of the evidence against Murdaugh is worth “over a million dollars to an unscrupulous hand.”
Murdaugh defense attorney Dick Harpootlian — who is also a sitting South Carolina state senator — accused prosecutors of attempting to try his client in secret.
“Objection, your honor! … I object to the state trying to hijack this proceeding,” Harpootlian shouted over Waters. “Your honor! I am not done! If I could be heard … and not be interrupted by the state as they continue to hijack this case!
“Every time we turn around, [prosecutors] are trying to hide something,” he yelled.
No information was given explaining the nature of the evidence in question.
Murdaugh, 54, is accused of using a rifle and a shotgun to kill his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, 52, and their 22-year-old son Paul Murdaugh. Their bodies were found last June near a dog kennel at their home in Islandton, a small town with only about 70 residents in the central part of the state.
Alex Murdaugh — a fourth-generation lawyer from a powerful Southern legal family — has pleaded not guilty to the slayings. He placed the initial 911 call, frantically telling a dispatcher he’d returned home to find the bullet-riddled bodies of his loved ones.
Investigators have said they found blood spatter on Murdaugh’s clothing and video that places him near the scene of the crime.
A date has not yet been set for the double murder trial, but it is expected to begin in January.