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Harpootlian: No evidence tying Alex Murdaugh to murders

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Alex Murdaugh Coverage

The Murdaugh family saga has dominated the news after another shooting, a resignation and criminal accusations — with Alex Murdaugh at the center of it all. Here are the latest updates on Alex Murdaugh.

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Alex Murdaugh’s attorney wants to take the jurors in his murder trial to the scene of the crime.

That was just one takeaway from defense attorney Dick Harpootlian’s opening statement Wednesday in the much anticipated double-murder trial at the Colleton County Courthouse.

Harpootlian said he plans to ask the judge to allow jurors to visit Moselle, the rural family home where Maggie, 52, and Paul Murdaugh, 22, were shot and killed in June 2021.

The Columbia defense attorney and state senator also emphasized to the 12 men and women impaneled earlier in the day that they must presume Murdaugh is innocent of the crimes, even if their inclination is otherwise.

“When you read the police have arrested somebody, the natural inclination is to say ‘thank God they caught him,’” Harpootlian said. “We all do it. We assume the police arrested the person who committed the crime… Now you cannot do that. You took an oath.”

The veteran attorney took aim at the prosecution’s claims that they say will establish Murdaugh’s guilt.

Given the extensive injuries to both Paul and Maggie, a shooter standing in close quarters to them would be “covered head to toe in blood,” Harpootlian said, but photos from the time do not show noticeable blood spatter on Murdaugh’s clothes. If he changed clothes after the killings, Harpootlian said, they were never found even though law enforcement arrived at the home that night.

He also took aim at ballistics evidence the state will use to tie the shots that killed his wife to a gun purchased by Murdaugh. The state can’t conclusively make that determination, he said, because they don’t have the gun.

“What (prosecutor Creighton Waters) submitted to you as facts are not,” Harpootlian said. “They are his theories, his conjecture.”

Most importantly, there is no evidence Murdaugh was anything other than a loving husband and father who bore no ill will toward his family, much less that he could “slaughter” them the way his wife and son were killed, Harpootlian said.

Harpootlian had Murdaugh stand when he described his family, and pointed out that Murdaugh’s surviving son Buster was present in the courtroom on Wednesday.

It was the opening of what could be a lengthy trial at the Colleton County Courthouse on charges Murdaugh murdered his wife and son. Both were found shot to death at the family’s rural estate Moselle on June 7, 2021.

Murdaugh told investigators he was visiting his ailing mother at the time of the killings, and he discovered the bodies when he returned home. But prosecutors allege Murdaugh killed them as part of a plan to divert attention from a string of shady financial transactions that were on the cusp of unraveling.

Murdaugh has yet to be tried or convicted of any financial crimes, and it’s likely the defense will object to any evidence presented claiming the murders were motivated by financial misdeeds.

Bristow Marchant covers local government, schools and community in Lexington County for The State. He graduated from the College of Charleston in 2007. He has more than 10 years of experience covering South Carolina at the Clinton Chronicle, Sumter Item and Rock Hill Herald. He joined The State in 2016. Bristow won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.
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