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Alex Murdaugh’s Attorneys Accuse Prosecutors Of Withholding Evidence, Calling It ‘Trial By Ambush’

Prosecutors responded to the accusations in a motion of their own, accused Alex Murdaugh's defense of a “blatant attempt to create drama when formerly there was none.”

By Jill Sederstrom
The Alex Murdaugh Case, Explained

Alex Murdaugh’s attorneys have accused prosecutors of withholding evidence, calling the alleged actions “gotcha prosecution” and “trial by ambush”—assertions that prosecutors have strongly denied.

Defense attorney Dick Harpootlian provided a scathing criticism of prosecutors in a press conference Wednesday morning, saying that the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office had failed to hand over its evidence in the murder case within the required 30-day window after a request was made by the defense last month.

“Both the constitutions of the state of South Carolina and the United States prohibit trial by ambush,” he said. “The law requires the state to make this evidence available to us within 30 days of our request. Thirty days is not a minimum, it’s the maximum.”

According to Harpootlian, Wednesday marked 32 days since the request had been filed. He said within that time, he has not received any evidence connected to the murder allegations, saying defense attorneys had “nothing” laying out the allegations against the disgraced former attorney.

Alex Murdaugh is escorted out of the Colleton County Courthouse

“I don’t have a shred of paper,” Harpootlian told the media Wednesday. “I don’t have an email. I don’t have an exhibit.”

Alex Murdaugh was charged last month with killing his wife Maggie and youngest son Paul in June of 2021 at the family’s Colleton County hunting compound. He has pleaded not guilty.

Harpootlian filed a motion to compel the state to produce “all information required material to the preparation of the defense or intended for use by the prosecution as evidence” on Tuesday, according to the motion obtained by Oxygen.com.

The delay, he said, had prevented the defense from being able to question witnesses, hire experts, and examine the physical evidence in the case.

“Every day that passes, makes it more difficult for Alex Murdaugh and his attorneys to get prepared for trial,” Harpootlian said Wednesday, adding that the defense team had requested a trial date in January.

He described the prosecution’s alleged actions as “unprecedented.”

“I’ve been doing this almost half a century as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney. This conduct is unprecedented, unprecedented. They are hiding the ball," he said.

Prosecutors responded to the accusations in a motion of their own, obtained by Oxygen.com, disputing many of the allegations and saying that both sides had been on the same page until after 5 p.m. on Friday.

They accused the defense of a “blatant attempt to create drama when formerly there was none.”

According to Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General S. Creighton Waters, both sides had discussed at a bond hearing the idea of implementing a protective order for the murder evidence similar to one already in place by the State Grand Jury in connection with other criminal charges against Murdaugh.

The state emailed a draft protective order and motion to unseal search warrants in the case to the defense on Friday afternoon to get their comments. At 5:00 p.m. they received an email from the defense with the recommended changes, but 15 minutes later, prosecutors said they received another email from the defense saying they had rethought the order and no longer wanted a protection order in place for items not included in the existing grand jury protection order.

Both sides agreed to talk more on Monday—the same day the 30-day deadline ran out—and prosecutors argued in a phone call that day they believed the issue should at least be brought before a judge due to the “sensitivity of the information” and “unparalleled interest” in the case before any discovery was sent, according to prosecutor’s motion.

That same day, prosecutors sent a letter to the judge requesting the search warrants be unsealed—which both sides have agreed to—and asking for the protective order to be put in place for the murder evidence.

“We wish to be clear that the Attorney General has every intention that this case be tried in the light of day, and none of this is meant to preclude appropriate public observation of the process. And none of this is to suggest that any lawyers involved would violate their ethical obligations regarding pre-trial publicity,” they wrote. “However, this case has received a lot of pretrial publicity which continues—and the murder discovery contains very sensitive materials such as crime scene photos.”

They argued the materials should not be left in the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.

In another message, Waters insisted there had been “no last minute effort to delay discovery” and said prosecutors believed they were in agreement until late Friday, noting that any delay in providing the materials would be due to the defense’s “change of heart.”

A judge has yet to rule on the defense’s motion to compel the state to share the discovery.

Harpootlian said Wednesday that Murdaugh—who has continued to insist he did not kill his family—was doing “fine” amidst the controversy.

Murdaugh is also facing more than 80 criminal counts for a slew of alleged financial crimes, drug trafficking and trying to stage his own suicide last year.

Watch Alex Murdaugh: Death. Deception. Power on Oxygen.